We’ve known it for a while, but a new
just laid it all out for everyone to see. For years, we have had low expectations for student performance in our state. What that meant is that when compared to national benchmarks of what was considered “proficient” student performance, we expected a whole lot less from our kids.
In fact, according to the findings of that study, Louisiana has the second-largest gap in the country when it comes to fourth grade reading and the fifth-highest for eighth grade math. So what does that mean in practical terms? Basically, when we were saying a Louisiana student was “proficient” in a subject matter, the national assessment that’s usually referred to as the “Nation’s Report Card” indicated otherwise. Our Louisiana LEAP tests overstated the English proficiency of students by 53 points and our math by 43. That’s a huge discrepancy.
This is important right now because it helps explain why CABL and other reform groups have been pushing for higher academic standards for our students and better, comparable tests to measure how they’re performing. Our old standards and LEAP tests served their purpose and started moving us on a path to raising student expectations. But like many kinds of standards, they eventually lose step with the increasing proficiency requirements needed for success and they need to be updated.
That’s why we adopted the Common Core standards in 2010 and joined a number of other states in developing a new set of tests that would close that expectations gap in a meaningful way. It made total sense to everyone, and still does to most when they understand it. But somehow those great intentions got hijacked by the strangest of politics and now we find ourselves fighting off efforts to take us backwards in time. Clearly, that makes no sense, but that’s where we are.
The recent “compromise” on Common Core is now moving through the legislative process. If it sticks and the governor doesn’t veto it, it will define for us a temporary path forward on this issue. In other words, it basically resolves things for a year. But the bigger questions remain and they need to be talked about.
Do we as a state really want to have lower expectations for our students than others? Do we want to waste millions of dollars we clearly don’t have to chart our own “Louisiana” path to future mediocrity? And do we really want the Legislature sticking its nose into academic areas like choosing test questions? The answer is no to all.
But at some point we’re going to have demand that our leaders stand up and quit running from this bogeyman surrounding shared standards and tests and figure out what opportunities we want to provide for our children.
In case people don’t fully understand it, pure politics and narrow political interests are putting our children at risk, disrupting our classrooms, wasting our time and money, and causing unnecessary hardship on our teachers. Maybe that’s what they mean when they say politics is a sport – but that doesn’t make it right.