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Tentative bill needs more to improve LA education

Regardless of the outcome of the federal “Race to the Top” process, those interested in improvement of Louisiana’s elementary and secondary education system need to come together to support legislation that has a proven track record of producing this outcome.

HB 1033 by state Rep. Frank Hoffman would require annual evaluations of all teachers, with half of it determined by student progress in the classroom. Naturally, the educational establishment and teachers unions look warily upon this legislation as they tend to emphasize first the provision and protection of jobs and then only concern themselves with educational rigor to benefit students.

Nonetheless, they have not come out in full opposition of the bill which has elements of reforms done in Massachusetts starting in 1993 and revised in 1996. Those changes by 2005 had made that state’s students the top performers in every subject area nationally. (Regrettably, under renewed liberal Democrat leadership they are beginning to roll back some of these measures.)

As much progress as the bill would produce, three changes would make it even better, following the model from Massachusetts. First, one reason why Louisiana students score near the bottom nationally is too many teachers do not adequately know their subject material, so they cannot sufficiently educate their students. Massachusetts at first had over half their teachers fail their licensure tests, and there’s no reason to expect that the level of subject area knowledge among Louisiana’s teachers as a whole is any higher. The bill would be improved vastly by adding such a component.

Second, state higher education must be made to adapt to the demands of higher expectations of teacher knowledge. In Massachusetts, colleges quickly got with the program and reduced the failure proportion considerably. This bill also should contain provisions for encouraging this, built upon measures already enacted that apply to college of education in Louisiana.

Third, much of the progress in Massachusetts occurred only after the creation of a state board that faced minimal political interference made tough, enforceable decisions; otherwise, reform would have been stalled. Currently, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education does not share that immunity. It may require a separate constitutional amendment to do so, but on these kinds of matters legislation should create some kind of structure that would cordon off as much as possible politics.

While better than standing pat, HB 1033, which incorporates some of the ideas behind the Race to the Top for which Louisiana was denied funding in the initial round, is too tentative. A good bill will become a great one with these alterations, and Hoffman and his chief supporter Gov. Bobby Jindal need to make great efforts on it with these additions.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wonder if you want your job tied to how many of your students pass your class?