Aug 10, 2012

Advocate Ignoring School Efforts
by John White, State Superintendent of Education
Published by The Advocate: August 10, 2012

Your Aug. 8 editorial, "A challenge for reform," states that not all students who attend a struggling public school will be able to choose an alternative option, such as a charter school or a private school. The piece asks "what happens to those left behind?" And it concludes that this question "hasn’t really been discussed in the debate about public education reform in Louisiana."

That point would be more credibly made were it not coming from a newspaper that has spent the last four months deluging its readership with stories about publicly funded private schools, while paying little mind to changes occurring within the traditional public school system. To be sure, the school choice elements you name - charter schools and private school scholarships - are important components of our state’s plan for improvement, Louisiana Believes. But they’re not nearly the entirety of the plan. The discussion you claim isn’t happening is in fact going on every day in schools; your paper just isn’t choosing to write about it.

Consider what has happened in our state’s education system over the last four months:

The state has ended its top-down comprehensive curriculum and has trained 6,000 teachers on the Common Core State Standards, empowering them to write curriculum and design activities.

Schools now aspire to a higher academic bar, represented by the ACT and advanced placement programs. Nearly 300 educators trained this summer to start advanced placement in their schools.

The state has trained 6,000 educators on the Compass teacher effectiveness system and will fully implement the system this year.

Every school board in the state has begun adjusting its hiring, tenure, and compensation policies to reward merit and to empower school leaders to make decisions about who should be in the classroom.

The Recovery School District has launched an Achievement Zone in north Baton Rouge to replicate the successes of the nationally acclaimed New Orleans model of empowered schools and parental choice.

Businesses, universities, and educators are drafting proposals to be "course providers," allowing parents a choice of rigorous career and college preparation not available in traditional schools.

State agencies are collaborating on a unified system of prekindergarten guaranteeing every 3- and 4-year old in Louisiana an academic education before kindergarten.

And the list goes on. In part, change is about offering families a way out of bad situations. But that is just one part of the plan, and having options for some students does not prohibit Louisiana from focusing on the needs of all students.

The best plan for school choice, after all, is to make every school a good choice. Our state has a plan to do just that, and school has already started. The Advocate is simply late to class.

John White
State Superintendent of Education

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