John White, Louisiana Superintendent of Education on Thursday, March 16, 2017.

With an “I’ve heard this before” reaction, I read your article explaining how the governor and his allies know what’s best for the students in Louisiana’s public schools. The thing about education is, everybody knows something about it. Everybody thinks he or she had the ideas to fix it. Those who are trained, educated in the field be damned. White is correct in his proposals. Every classroom teacher worth his or her salt knows one basic truth: the surest way to measure academic progress in a student is to review where that student is this year on a given standardized test, review where that same student is next year on a comparable measure, and calculate the difference. Did the student improve, or not? This applies to all students, not just students who are, as we have come to say, “challenged.” Additionally, Edwards states “34 states plan to send in their plan in September…” He urges Louisiana to follow. White is spot-on by insisting on sending in the plan in April, saying school people need the time to prepare, to hit the ground running. For once, in some field, could Louisiana lead rather than follow? I’m right there with the governor on letter grades. I hate them. They do not/cannot represent the totality of what makes one school “good” and another not good. But that horse is out of the barn. The practice of assigning letter grades is so engrained we’ll probably never see the practice disappear. Would that every school were as easy to identify as great as schools that have selective enrollment. Reminds me of an 8th grade teacher who came into my office one day in the 1980s and said, “Dr. Allen, I could be a great teacher if you just gave me students who wanted to learn.” No kidding.

Carol Allen

retired associate superintendent, New Orleans Public Schools

New Orleans