Louisiana cannot have a bright economic future without a workforce equipped with the skills and training necessary to compete in a 21st century economy. Revamping Louisiana’s educational system stands as an economic imperative—and a moral one, too. Ensuring that every child has access to a high-quality education of their choosing will help ensure that every Louisiana resident, regardless of his or her socioeconomic standing, has the chance to succeed.
Louisiana’s public education system has made dramatic gains in the past decade, but many children still fail to achieve important measures of progress. In eighth grade reading, Louisiana’s most recent test scores lagged behind 41 other states; in eighth grade math, the state’s performance ranked below 48 states. Fewer than one in four (23%) of students achieved proficiency in eighth grade reading; one in six (16%) achieved proficiency in math. Only 2% of Louisiana eighth grade students—one in fifty—achieved advanced levels of performance in reading.
Louisiana’s poor overall performance on nationwide tests masks even greater achievement disparities for poor students and students of color. In both math and reading, eighth grade African-American students scored 27 points lower than their white counterparts. The achievement gap between children who qualified for free or reduced-price school lunches and more affluent students has remained constant in both eighth grade reading and math for nearly two decades. And the percentage of eighth grade African-American students who achieved advanced levels of performance in reading literally “rounds to zero.”
Often, government bureaucrats or union officials prevent parents from selecting the best educational options available for their children. In one case, a union official claimed that low-income parents have “no clue” how to select the proper school for their children.
Louisianans must demand better — proper educational reform is paramount not just to the State right now, but to the State’s continued growth by helping the younger generations adequately prepare to become members of the workforce, and by empowering parents and good, high performing teachers to promote the academic growth Louisiana needs to see.