Hope: Noun. “Desire accompanied by expectation of or belief in fulfillment.” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

Ask any parent what hope means for their child, and they certainly won’t need a dictionary. They’ll quickly tell you that it represents the life they want for their kid. Opportunity. The chance to grow up and have more options than their parents. The expectation that they will be happy, secure, and fulfilled.

A formal education is one of the top things parents identify as a determinant for giving their child hope for a great future. In this increasingly knowledge-based economy, they know that a quality education is critical for self-sufficiency, upward mobility, and economic prosperity.

How do families know whether their children are receiving a great education? Typically there are three ways:

  1. A transparent school accountability system: States are required by federal law to measure and report student achievement and school performance in all public schools, identify schools in need of improvement, and ensure that evidence-based practices are being used to address any areas of weakness or concern. Louisiana’s current K-12 education accountability system is described here; parents and other citizens can learn about their school’s performance (and that of others) by visiting the state’s School Finder. Additional information about Louisiana’s state and local school systems is available on this Pelican Institute education dashboard. Pelican has advocated for making Louisiana’s K-12 education accountability system simpler and more focused on student proficiency and growth.

  2. Individual student reports: In addition to progress reports, report cards, and graded assignments and tests, families of children attending public schools are required to receive the results of their child’s LEAP test each year, which provides an objective measurement of academic performance relative to proficiency standards that mirror those in other states. This means parents can see whether the child is performing on grade level and has sufficiently learned the content taught in that particular subject and grade level in order to successfully progress to the next level. These annual reports show not only whether the child is performing at or above grade level, but parents can also see whether academic growth is occurring from year to year.

  3. Parent’s awareness: This one has no school- or state-issued reports, but is perhaps the most important and telling of all. It comes down to a parent knowing that their unique child is being well served, is in an environment that is meeting their individual needs, and is flourishing. Parents know whether their child is learning and developing. They also know whether their child is happy, engaged, feels safe, is immersed in a culture of high expectations and support, and is surrounded by people who care.

This brings us back to hope. When parents know their child is thriving, there’s no greater joy and peace. But what if their child is struggling with academic or other challenges that just aren’t improving despite repeated attempts to address them with teachers and school leaders?

Last year, West Virginia enacted the Hope Scholarship Program to allow families to use the state portion of their child’s education funding to tailor an individualized learning experience that works best for them. The program is set to begin this fall. Families can spend the funds – about $4,600 per year – on tuition to attend a private school, tutoring, educational services and therapies, textbooks and supplies, course fees, and more. West Virginia State Senator Patricia Rucker will speak at Pelican’s upcoming Solutions Summit on March 7, 2022, about her state’s creation of this new innovative program.

The Louisiana Legislature will consider a proposal for a similar program in the upcoming session that begins next month. It could serve as a lifeline for parents needing a school that better meets their child’s individual needs. Let’s give this program a chance; it’s time to give our own children and families hope for a brighter future.