State Superintendent John White, left, has overseen increases in ACT scores, graduation rates and other measures of achievement. (Brett Duke, Nola.com | The Times-Picayune)
Opinion by Carol McCall
Much is written -- especially nationally -- about what is happening in education in Louisiana. We should be cheering for our students and teachers as we do for our athletes and their coaches. By critically important measures, Louisiana has experienced and continues to experience major wins in education.
For more than 20 years, the state has been moving for higher standards and accountability. Now led by state Superintendent John White and his staff at the Department of Education, Louisiana has been nationally recognized for progress in a number of key areas.
Teacher preparation: Recognized by the Council of Chief State School Officers, Louisiana has built a collaboration between PreK-12 and higher education institutions for teacher preparation programs that include a year-long teacher internship program, to increase competence prior to entering the classroom.
Curriculum-driven reform: According to an article by national education policy journal Education Next, Louisiana's education administration "has quietly engineered a system of curriculum-driven reforms that have prompted Louisiana's public school teachers to change the quality of their instruction in measurable and observable ways." These advances are unmatched in other states.
High school graduation rate: In 2005, 54 percent of Louisiana students graduated from high school, and now that number has significantly increased to 77 percent. These results come amidst a five-year push by Louisiana's Department of Education to increase the number of graduates earning employer-validated "Jump Start" credentials and early college credits.
Advanced Placement scores: More than 6,500 Louisiana high school students earned college-credit qualifying scores on Advanced Placement (AP) exams in 2017. Since 2012 this number has increased 137 percent. Research shows students who succeed on AP exams are more likely to earn higher GPAs in college, take more classes in their discipline and graduate college on time.
ACT scores increase for fourth straight year: As a state, we have made measurable progress increasing the ACT scores of our students. The class of 2017 earned scores that boosted the state's average ACT score for the fourth straight year, now at 19.6. Louisiana is one of only 17 states that require all high school students to participate in this important test.
CLEP test college credits increase: According to data from the College Board, Louisiana leads the nation in the College Level Examination Program (CLEP), with a 55 percent increase in the number of high school students earning college credit. CLEP tests students' knowledge from outside the classroom. It is especially useful for home schooled students and those with job experience.
NAEP scores show highest growth in the country: In 2015, Louisiana fourth-graders showed the highest growth among all states in the United States on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading test, and the second-highest growth scores nationally in math.
Louisiana's Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan receives national acclaim: According to an independent review by national advocacy groups, Bellwether Education Partners and the Collaborative for Student Success, Louisiana's plan to comply with the federal ESSA (passed in 2015) presents a strong vision for students and sets high expectations. The Alliance for Excellent Education, published an analysis of the plan, calling it one of the "most promising" in the United States.
Progress in any field does not come without focus, collaboration and hard work. Louisiana teachers and students are proving they are up to the task and the challenge.
But as a community, are we acknowledging these demonstrable and significant improvements? Are we letting our teachers know we appreciate their hard work? We need to be cheering them on! We need to celebrate Louisiana's education leaders, like John White, who have led the way -- and who work hard every day to keep us moving forward.
Carol McCall is chairwoman of the Education Committee for Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans.