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Fixing the Schools
Why Are the Feds Trying to Stymie Louisiana's Top-Ranked Education Reforms?

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s ambitious school voucher programs just got a big boost from one of the biggest names in education reform. Students First, a school reform organization led by former DC schools commissioner Michelle Rhee, released a national state-by-state report card on Tuesday which ranked Louisiana first in the nation with a B- grade, just ahead of Florida, Indiana, and Rhode Island. (As a whole, the report takes a dim view of American education policy: The national average is a D+.) The report card grades states on their performance in three categories: elevating the teaching profession, empowering parents, and spending money wisely. Louisiana ranked above average in all three and was particularly singled out for its teacher evaluation and school choice policies:

Louisiana has established itself as a national leader for creating innovative and important student-centered education policies. The state has adopted meaningful educator evaluations, and it requires districts to base all personnel decisions, as well as compensation structures, on classroom effectiveness. Louisiana is also a leader for empowering parents with choice and information. The state provides parents with useful and easy-to-understand information regarding school performance in the form of an A-F school report card. In addition to their traditional neighborhood schools, parents can choose from a robust network of public charter schools or take advantage of an opportunity scholarship program that prioritizes low-income students stuck in low-performing schools.

Louisiana’s education reforms have been among the most ambitious in the country for years now. It’s still too early to fully measure the effectiveness of those reforms, but reports like this are a big vote of confidence at a time when state is defending its voucher program against the Department of Justice.

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  • johngbarker

    I wonder how enthusiastic people will be for school reform when the best teachers realize they can work under better conditions and for more pay in private schools where parents and children endure a highly selective admission process and fork $30K in tuition plus other assorted fees. Amazing how high performing schools tend to admit high performing parents and students!

    • skascher

      My understanding is that private schools pay much less than public schools as a whole. Do you have a reference of the opposite?

      • johngbarker

        In my town, the most elite private school has class sizes ranging from 2-14; extracurricular activities are accommodated during normal school hours. Pretty good teaching conditions I’d say. The school has a 100% high school graduation and 100% college admission rate. Could this level of achievement be duplicated in any public school with an open an admissions policy, normal demographics and normal teaching loads? Show me one. I don’t know the salary range because the school is private. I have heard reports from friends living in large cities who will not consider enrolling their children in public schools. This trend will accelerate since middle class parents will want their children to associate with their intellectual and social peers.
        The highest performing subject focused public high schools and special programs in my town screen and sort applicants admitting only the highest performers. Thus, the best public schools and programs are in essence private, access by invitation only.

        • skascher

          I agree with all you have said. I used to teach in private school so know the advantages. My question though is will you get the best teachers if you don’t pay them the same. If making a higher wage is important then teachers will probably choose a public school. I left teaching because of the frustration of not being able to teach and very little support from school administrators and parents. I have found very little change over the 30 years I have been away. We need a change not many are willing to make except in a few places trying to make a difference. School should be free, excellent, and for everyone, and we should be willing to pay for that for the good of our society. BUT, I want results that can be documented and proven to work so my tax dollars are spent wisely. I am not a parent but am willing to contribute for the good of all and understand why parents would want the best for their children. I will get pounced for this but athletics belongs outside of school and that is coming from a former coach.

          • Andrew Allison

            “My question though is will you get the best teachers if you don’t pay them the same.” Absolutely. Good teachers teach because they want to teach, not to obtain sinecures. The fact is that public school teachers are vastly over-compensated for what they (typically, fail to) do.

  • Kavanna

    To answer the question — because the reforms are “unfair”: i.e., they might succeed?

    • Andrew Allison

      Because reforms are threatening, i.e. unfair, to incumbents?

  • Federale

    Why, because Obama hates anything that is not run by the government, does not protect union sinicures, helps black people get off welfare, and any exercise of States Rights. And he hates anything that will improve America by improving our schools. Obama hates America and wants to bring her down.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    The reason public education is so bad, is the teacher’s labor gang monopolies. Without the “Feedback of Competition” forcing continuous improvements in Quality,
    Service, and Price, in free markets, all the labor gang monopolies can look forward to is stagnation and decay. The voucher programs put competitive pressures on the teacher’s labor gang monopolies, and they hate being forced to compete as monopolies are terrible competitors.

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