I believe these announcements are just the tip of the iceberg of failure of much of the governor's education “deform” package as education officials attempt to implement the poorly thought out programs. (See also Diane Ravitch's latest blog on Louisiana ed reform)The entire reform package was rammed through the legislature early in the session with orders from the governor to the majority Republican legislature that amendments would not be allowed. As a result, much of the legislation which was based on ALEC templates drawn up by big business lobbyists and TFA corps members (you've got to read this story!) who have no clue what really works in education, is not only harmful but also very impractical. So much of what is being proposed by Jindal and his Superintendent John White is so totally impractical that it will never get off the ground.
For example, White has proposed that all students in all Louisiana public schools will achieve proficiency in ELA and math by the 2014 school year, yet there is nothing in the data collected by the Department of Education to show that anything close to this goal is possible. It looks like most of Louisiana's education reform goals are based on wishful thinking rather than on solid programs. Such “bold initiatives” set up our public schools for unnecessary failure in the eyes of the public.
Superintendent White still touts school takeovers by the Recovery District as Louisiana's primary strategy for turning around failing schools, yet all direct takeovers have been absolute failures to the point that parents have been pulling students out and re-enrolling them in the regular public schools. In East Baton Rouge the Department made the dramatic announcement recently that it is now taking over failing schools and creating an “achievement zone” run by the RSD. What was not reported about this initiative is that all but one of the schools taken over had already been under the direction of the Recovery District for several years and all had failed! Shame on the news media for regurgitating the propaganda generated by the Education Dept. instead of reporting the facts.
Preliminary figures indicate that very few students will have any opportunity to utilize the new vouchers. This fact makes a mockery out of the so called choice legislation. The only individuals who will exercise choice are the private and parochial administrators who see a way to improve their bottom line.
Virtual charters are being extensively expanded without a shred of evidence that virtual charter students are performing satisfactorily. One thing is known however. Virtual charters are extremely profitable in Louisiana for the wall street tycoons who have basically written the legislation and BESE guidelines that allow such schools to get twice the true per pupil cost of educating a child in a virtual charter.
Finally the Governor and White are betting everything on a plan that will wipe out all due process rights for the teaching profession and base all employment decisions on student performance. The flaw in this proposal is that it assumes that most of student under-performance is caused by lazy and/or incompetent teachers. The theory is that the firing and replacement of a certain percentage of teachers based on student test scores will dramatically raise student scores in public schools. There is not a shred of evidence for this assumption. What we can expect is that as impossible performance goals are mandated, cheating scandals will hit Louisiana just as has happened in Georgia and the District of Columbia. Four years from now, Jindal and White will move on to other things, and the citizens of Louisiana and the professional educators who survive will have to pick up the pieces and restructure our educational system, hopefully this time using sound educational principles.
Better yet, should not the professional educators who live in large numbers in every representative district in the state begin immediately to demand accountability of our legislators and our Governor! As has been pointed out, the children can't afford to wait any longer for real reform.