A new national survey on public education provides some food for thought for Louisiana. It finds that people across the country believe education is an important priority and they think some major changes are required to improve student achievement.
The poll results are reported by the national education reform group The 74, which takes its name from the 74 million school children residing in the U.S. With what many would call “culture war” issues leading the education headlines across the country these days, this poll taken in March suggests most people, including parents of school-age children, are focused on something else – making education work better for all students.
According to the poll, 63% of those surveyed believe K-12 education is very important in making their communities and the country stronger in the future. Yet, 60% think the quality of U.S. schools is only fair or poor and just 7% rate it as excellent.
Respondents were then asked whether two years after COVID the focus on education should be on getting back to normal or working on big ideas and changes to improve outcomes. Fifty-three percent said work on big changes.
The message: education is important, we’re not doing a great job at it, and we need to go big.
What that looks like can vary, and the survey found considerable support for what many consider some of the big ideas on the table:
- 57% support school choice
- 61% support charter schools
- 57% support Education Savings Accounts
All of this has relevance for Louisiana because we are ground zero for all three of those issues. The state has been seen as a leader in school choice for more than two decades and New Orleans is one of the only all-charter districts in the country.
And as it happens, the Louisiana Legislature is currently considering four bills that seek to create new “Education Savings Accounts” for students and families in particular and limited circumstances. These ESAs allow parents to withdraw their children from public schools and deposit the state funds that would have gone to the school district in a special, restricted account. Parents could then use those funds to pay for their child’s education in another setting, covering things like private school tuition, online learning programs, private tutoring, and other instructional services and materials.
But Louisiana is doing other big things, too. The state Superintendent of Education continues to promote his initiative to transform public high schools by providing students more opportunities to gain college credit, access workforce training, and earn apprenticeships. The potential implications of that are huge.
And in the wake of falling reading scores, the state is in the process of a major overhaul of the way we teach reading in the early grades. This will include regular screenings and interventions for young students so that they are reading on grade level by the time they enter fourth grade.
Certainly, Louisiana is not where we need to be in terms of student achievement, but we are undertaking a number of initiatives that fall into the category of “big” change. CABL supports all of these efforts and is deeply engaged in several of them.
The closing message of that national poll is that with state elections coming up in 2023 education needs to be in the spotlight, but it has to be about solutions. Distracting and divisive rhetoric can generate headlines, but what most citizens want is a commitment to improve the educational outcomes for all of our children. That’s what will make a real difference for Louisiana.