Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Real Education Improvements!

As we start off the new year in Louisiana education I believe it is appropriate to highlight some of the real improvements in elementary secondary education we have witnessed in the past year. This blog often dwells on criticizing bad ideas, punitive reform plans and false promises made to the Louisiana public, so it is appropriate that we start off the new year with what we believe is working in public education. I believe that use of the combined intelligence of 70 local superintendents and 50,000 public school teachers is the best way to implement real education reform in Louisiana schools.

Public School Enrollment Increases: Though it causes a problem for the Governor and the Legislature to fund the increase cost of the MFP, public school enrollment increased significantly this school year. I believe the increase in public school enrollment shows that more parents believe their children can get  a good education from the public schools. It means that local school systems all over the state are putting great emphasis on providing better services to our customers the parents and their children who attend public schools.

Graduation Rate Improves: The graduation rate in 2011 improved from 67 % to 70.9%. This did not happen by accident. It means that local school systems have concentrated their efforts on keeping students in school who normally would have dropped out between the 9th and 12th grades. In Assumption Parish, Superintendent Tibby Martinez gives credit to an effort to provide more career prep courses in high school. More students are motivated by better training programs for job entry or technical training after high school. In Natchitoches, the emphasis has been on credit recovery for at risk students. This school system's efforts were featured on an NBC Education Nation  TV report on education advances.

Advanced Placement Courses Increased: Advanced placement courses which award college credit for high school students who demonstrate a certain level of mastery by passing an AP course culminating with an advanced placement test have increased across the state. In June, 2011 BESE approved a goal of having advanced placement courses offered in all school systems. Local school systems were already in the process of adding more and more AP courses, so this was an idea whose time had come. Students who pass AP courses have a much better chance of succeeding in college. For many of our high performing students this is just the kind of challenge they needed.

Virtual Schools Implenented By Local School Systems: The Advocate article linked here shows how St Martin Parish Schools will be utilizing virtual courses to attract and retain more students to their school system. In the Zachary Community School System my grandson has benefited from taking an extra math course offered using internet based instruction.  According to the State Department of Education, some  of the public school enrollment gains this year were due to transfer of students from home study programs and private schools to state approved virtual schools. In my post of January 6, 2011, I suggested that local school systems should take advantage of new technology to offer virtual school options to parents and students who prefer to receive instruction in an "at home setting". Such an offering could win significant numbers of students back from home schooling or private schools.  I want to caution again however, that virtual instruction methods will only work for a small percentage of students who with the support of parents have the self discipline to establish an instruction routine in the home that approaches the structured instruction provided in a brick and mortar school. In most cases virtual instruction will not be effective for high-risk students.

The above developments represent real improvements in our public schools!