If there’s good news about public education in Louisiana these days — and there is — there is also the reality that we’ve got a lot to do.
Measured by the LEAP tests and school performance scores — the latter including attendance — our state has shown some real progress. More students are on grade level, a key barometer. In New Orleans, which once had one of the nation’s most troubled systems, a state takeover appears to be working, with the rate of gains greater than for the state as a whole.
Even if progress is slow, it’s still progress.
Nevertheless, the sad fact remains that some 230,000 students are not at grade level. If that standard is an important educational barometer, it’s a barometer reading that should serve as a storm warning.
One way to look at it: the prospects for a child left behind even a single year. His chances of graduation from high school fall, her chances of scoring high enough to get into college go down, his chances of success in technical programs past high school are reduced.
As an economist, the chairman of the Federal Reserve put the consequences for society into a neat summary: a gap between the prospects in life of large numbers of our fellow citizens. “It’s creating two societies,” Ben Bernanke said in a television interview. “And it’s based very much, I think, on educational differences.”
Bernanke noted the consequences during a reduction in employment such as the most recent recession. “If you’re a college graduate, unemployment is 5 percent. If you’re a high school graduate, it’s 10 percent or more. It’s a very big difference,” he said. “It leads to an unequal society, and a society which doesn’t have the cohesion that we’d like to see.”
That statement is very true for Louisiana as well as the nation.