Yesterday Was A Pretty Good Day For School Choice In Louisiana

A couple of press releases by the Louisiana Federation for Children point to some interesting developments in the evolution of education in the state.

First, SB 61 passed in a 73-15 vote in the House. That bill, by Sen. Ben Nevers, goes back to the Senate for concurrence on some minor amendments on its way to Gov. Jindal.

What does SB 61 do?

“The Louisiana Public School Choice bill will create important new options for parents who have children trapped in failing public schools,” said Ann Duplessis, president of the Louisiana Federation for Children. “The broad bipartisan support this bill received demonstrates a strong recognition that the status quo is not working and that parents deserve access to school choice.”

The bill would allow Louisiana students who are currently enrolled in D or F-ranked public schools to transfer to the A, B or C-ranked public school of their parents’ choice which has room for additional students. If the Senate concurs and bill is signed into law, public school choice will be in effect for the 2014-15 school year.

It’s a nice addition to the education reforms that have already been passed, in that it gives parents of kids in crappy schools better options. If your kid is in a D- or F-school in East Baton Rouge and you don’t mind driving her to an A-school in Ascension where there is extra space, then this bill empowers you to make the move.

Add this to charters and vouchers, and you’re beginning to see a marketplace forming in education in Louisiana.

Something else turned up yesterday that school choice advocates are pretty excited about…

The Louisiana Federation for Children (LFC), the state’s voice for educational choice, celebrated the academic gains made by students in the Louisiana Scholarship Program on the newly-released LEAP (Louisiana Educational Assessment Program) and iLEAP (Integrated Louisiana Educational Assessment Program) scores. Results show that although tests are aligned to more challenging standards, scores from scholarship students rose by four percent over the previous year. Scores from public school students remained flat.

“These outcomes, in only the second year of the statewide expansion, demonstrate that the Louisiana Scholarship Program is helping students learn,” said Ann Duplessis, president of the Louisiana Federation for Children. “The Louisiana Scholarship Program is a lifeline for low-income children trapped in failing schools and these test results prove that these children are making gains in their new schools.”

This year’s LEAP and iLEAP tests consisted of more rigorous testing standards that stress the necessity for stronger critical thinking and writing skills as the state transitions to more higher testing expectations.

Since the creation of the Louisiana Scholarship Program in 2008, students in the program have continued to strengthen their test scores each year:

  • Since 2008, the percent of scholarship students at basic and above in third grade English Language Arts has increased 24 percentage points, while math scores have increased by 23 percentage points.
  • Since 2010, the percent of scholarship students testing at the basic and above levels has increased 15 percentage points.
  • Since 2013, the percent of students testing at the basic and above levels have increased nearly four percentage points.
  • Since 2013, the percent of students testing at mastery level and above has increased two percentage points.

 

 

The teachers’ unions and the rest of the status quo crowd have made a show of beating up the voucher kids over the fact that their passing scores on the LEAP test have been well below the rest of the state – currently 69 percent of statewide public school students pass the LEAP/iLEAP test, while only 45 percent of the voucher kids do.

Except that in 2010, the number was 30 percent. That’s a 50 percent improvement in four years.

The 45 percent number was a jump from 41 in 2013, which is significant. Last year’s 41 was actually a drop from 43 in 2012, but there was a reason for that – the voucher program expanded statewide after Gov. Jindal’s education reform package passed in the 2012 legislative session, so the testing in 2013 reflected a big pool of first-year voucher kids who had been pulled out of failing public schools into private schools which opened up space to take in voucher students. Some of those schools did an excellent job with the voucher kids, and some of them did a terrible job; the latter were culled from the program, and that had a lot to do with the increase.

In other words, choice, competition and accountability which drove results.

The 69 percent statewide? It’s up four points from 65 in 2010. That’s improvement as well, but it’s a good deal more tepid than the voucher marketplace generated.

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