Report names Louisiana first in nation in Pro-Student education policies

Staff Writer
Donaldsonville Chief

BATON ROUGE, La. - Louisiana ranks first in the nation for policies that prioritize the interests of children, according to a report released today by StudentsFirst, an education policy organization.  The state's policies in the area of teacher development, school choice, and turning around low performing schools, earned the state the highest grade in the nation on an A-F scale.

Governor Bobby Jindal said, "This report confirms that Louisiana is now leading the nation in education reform because of our commitment to put a great teacher in every classroom and give every child the opportunity to get a great education.  Our reforms are working - parents finally have more choices, student scores are up, and teachers are being rewarded for their hard work.  Our work is not done yet, but we are in the midst of a great turnaround in Louisiana's education system that will ensure all of our sons and daughters have the skills to succeed in the 21st century workforce."

"The report's findings validate the courage and boldness of Louisiana's policy makers, voters, and educators," said State Superintendent John White.  "Our schools are improving as a result, but we have a lot of work left to do until every child is on path to a college degree or a career.  This is the beginning of a long journey ahead."

The report, titled State of Education: State Policy Report Cards 2013, praised the state's efforts to put students first through its education policies, highlighting:

Educator evaluation and development: The report praises the state's evaluation system for teachers and principals that considers both student growth and annual evaluation that emphasizes professional development through a four-tiered rating system.

Compensation: Louisiana ties personnel decisions, specifically layoffs and tenure, to performance.  Districts are restricted from using seniority to determine layoffs during budget-related reductions in force, and schools are empowered to build the best staff possible through alternative teacher certification and performance driven compensation scales, not a minimum salary schedule.

Honoring effective teaching: The state reformed its tenure system for non-tenure teachers by solely awarding tenure for highly effective teaching in five out of six years.  Additionally, tenure can be revoked after one year of ineffective teaching.

Charter schools: Louisiana has a robust charter school program that allows for per pupil funding comparable to traditional public schools and is subject to a strong accountability system, as charters are closed after receiving a failing grade for four years.

Scholarships: Through a publicly funded scholarship program, low-income students have options to leave failing public schools and choose private or public schools that are subject to accountability standards.

Letter grades: Louisiana provides parents with accurate and timely information by requiring that all PK-12 schools be given an A-F letter grade based on student achievement.

Recovery School District: Louisiana has set the standard for state-level intervention in low performing schools through this statewide school district where states are placed after four years of failure.

"We are moving forward in education in this state, and contrary to what the status quo wants us to believe, the majority of Louisiana people are excited to see real reform at last," said Charles Roemer, Board of Elementary and Secondary Educaiton President.  "Parents have hope that their children will graduate with the knowledge and skills they need to be successful.  Louisiana businesses have confidence that we will provide them the capable workforce they need.  We will continue to push for changes that help prepare our students."