APPEL: Louisiana Public Education Is A Total Failure. What Do We Do About It?

Let’s cut to the chase, shall we? The public education system in Louisiana is a total failure and has been for a very long time.

How do we know that? Well, a number of national media and professional organizations annually rate all states’ education success based upon clearly-defined metrics. Almost without fail Louisiana is always 2nd or 3rd from last.

You note that I reference national organizations who do the ratings.

A decade ago, the Legislature passed a broad set of education reforms with no input from those who we trust to prepare our young for their future, the School Boards, the Superintendents, and the teachers represented by their unions.

This is important: it is not that their input wasn’t solicited, it was that they refused to participate. Back in 2012 the strategy of this Education Establishment was to defeat reforms, not to help structure them or to implement them. Their approach, use their political power to have us keep on doing the same failed things because despite the obvious contrary evidence, the Establishment was comfortable.

But what they didn’t consider was that almost entirely on his promise to fix educational outcomes, Governor Jindal was re-elected that year with 71% of the vote. That same support was later reflected in the votes of the legislature and the reforms passed, to be implemented by BESE.

But what does that have to do national organizations evaluating our schools? The answer to that is though the Education Establishment lost the reform battle, they were then and are now still fighting the war to prevent reform. Justifiably no one trusts the results of our accountability system, so all folks have to go on are outside evaluations.

The principles of the 2012 reforms were high standards, accountability, and parental choice. Accountability took the form of annual evaluations of specific metrics of performance. In other words, by using test results and comparing entering and ending progress or lack of progress we could determine how school districts, schools, teachers, superintendents, and students were performing. This isn’t rocket science, it is a system that is widely understood and used.

But the entire Establishment hated it. And so, their strategy became to water down the metrics, defer testing, lower the bar for acceptability, and on and on. Still no effort by the Establishment to improve results for kids, just use the power of local politics to make the results of evaluations moot. For a decade now that effort has been ongoing, destroy reform by incrementally picking it to pieces.

And of course, with a union ally in the governor’s office they are succeeding. Nothing has happened to help kids.

Just this week it was announced that the Superintendents want to delay accountability again. The only thing stopping a further return to the bad old days of no accountability would be if BESE recognizes its duty to honor the law as expressed by the legislature when it voted for the 2021 reforms. If BESE surrenders to another effort to undermine accountability by Superintendents, they do so only by subverting the will of the people.

I should not have to write this. The goal should be what is best for children. The 2012 Legislature should not have had to undertake reforms at all. The recognition that doing the same things over and over with no improvement should then and should now come from the Establishment – and accompanying it, a strong strategy to fix things.

The Legislature’s only effort should have been to codify what the Establishment brought to us. But in 2012 we gave up on any hope of the Establishment doing what was right by kids and we undertook it ourselves. Over the past ten years the people we trust have done nothing but erode those efforts. And once again they are at it.

BESE must stand up for the children of Louisiana and send the naysayers packing. Do what’s right, if they don’t think the reforms were right, then by all means present new ones.

BESE, just do something! Don’t retreat!

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