When money is tight, as it is now, we often talk about education as a cost necessary for the long term, an investment now that will pay off over time.
But I was reminded this week by the release of a national report, and by the announcement of an ambitious charitable donation, that the investment Louisiana taxpayers make in schools won’t just benefit our state years from now. It is paying immediate dividends in profound ways.
Indeed, schools are showing greater return on taxpayers’ investments than ever before. Louisiana was the most improved state in the nation in fourth-grade reading and fourth-grade math on the 2015 National Assessment of Education Progress, for example. In 2009, our state ranked 50th in reading; we now rank 43rd. That progress continues at the high school level, where the state’s graduation rate is at an all-time high. Louisiana also improved its average ACT score more than any other state this year. Of six Southern states whose high school students all take the ACT, our state now ranks third. And the number of young people going to four-year and two-year colleges in our state has increased by 16 percent over the last four years.
Two announcements this week should add to our optimism.
First, the College Board, maker of the SAT, announced that the percentage of Louisiana graduates passing an advanced placement test for college credit was the second most-improved in the U.S. last year, trailing only Massachusetts. In fact, from 2011 to 2015, the number of seniors graduating in Louisiana with AP credit nearly doubled. According to the same report, the families of Louisiana graduates saved nearly $10 million in college tuition last year because of AP credits graduates took with them to college.
ExxonMobil, with a long history of supporting education in the state, announced a commitment of $13 million to Louisiana schools that partner with the National Math and Science Initiative to expand AP courses in English, mathematics and the sciences, especially in under-served communities. NMSI will immediately provide unprecedented support for both teachers and students across the state, including right here in Baton Rouge.
Louisiana’s students are as smart and as capable as any in the U.S. This week’s announcements validate that statement, reminding us of the importance of our investment in education, for the future of young lives and for our great state.
Louisiana Superintendent of Education