It’s football season, so we can’t resist this image: Progress in public education is more Les Miles football than Pac-12 football.
Gains will be measured in just a few yards and a cloud of dust, the kind of football Miles learned under the great Bo Schembechler at the University of Michigan. It won’t be the run-and-gun spread offenses made famous among West Coast teams.
That’s the positive spin on what were really not ostentatious results in the letter grades given to Louisiana public schools.
Sometimes, though, the o-line can’t quite pick up three or four yards in a single play: Overall, the grades were unchanged for the 2013-14 school year, with a still-distressing 28 percent of schools receiving a D or F from the accountability calculations.
One of the founders of the accountability movement dating from Gov. Mike Foster’s administration is Leslie Jacobs, now heading Educate Now! in New Orleans. “New Orleans hit the pause button this year,” she said, and that’s probably not an unfair categorization of the overall results statewide.
Part of the reason is that the referees of the game — the state board and Department of Education — set up fail-safe measures for a couple of years. The idea is to cushion the impact of new, higher academic standards with the Common Core initiative; some schools did improve, and by several measures such as ACT test scores and graduation rates, the schools are doing significantly better.
This year, schools could gain in their letter grades, but the results were “curved” so that schools wouldn’t be penalized in the process.
That is reasonable, but Education Superintendent John White noted that the goalposts will be moved over the next decade or so, as academic standards become more challenging. “We are transitioning to a much higher bar,” he said.
That is true for the 1,300 public schools, and it’s a challenge for teachers and students. What it means, though, is that the students who achieve the standards are better prepared for college, community college or technical schools. The results in a few years would be a greater chance for students to succeed in life.
That is the goalpost to keep in mind. What’s important is that there is progress toward a first down, even if it takes three downs to get there.