Full disclosure: I'm a 16 year educator in the Louisiana public school system. I've been at my current school since 2001 and by the Letter Grade Policy instituted by our state in 2010, my school is ranked "low performing." I've addressed the topic of letter grades for schools on this blog before and won't rehash that one, but to be sure, it's a much more complicated equation than the current grading system allows for.
That said, let me just reiterate that I still have more questions than answers about the current state of public education. Consider the Superman documentary, for example. The kids highlighted in that film all had a concerned, dedicated parent pushing them and pushing to get them into a charter school. What about kids that don't have that? What about kids that don't have someone pulling for them like that?
The film criticizes "the tracking system" and stresses the idea that every single kid go to college. Is this truly realistic or just utopian and is one considered a "bad teacher" for suggesting that not all kids are in fact college material? (I personally am not advocating one way or the other at this point so save your hate mail; I'm just posing questions here).
In Louisiana, one of the ideas Governor Jindal has put forth is to expand the voucher program that has been in place since 2003.
“First, our plan will expand the existing Scholarship Program statewide for low-income students at C, D and F schools."
Some educators have a problem with this citing a lack of slots in private schools as well as questions about the criteria for holding private and parochial schools accountable.
And what of the students who don't meet the academic requirements to get into these schools in the first place? As noted in Waiting for Superman, most states have large numbers of children reading below grade level and performing poorly in math, too. Will private and parochial schools have to take those students anyway or will they just be stuck in those failing schools?
Governor Jindal is also advocating creation of more charter schools, getting tougher on school discipline, and finding ways around that tenure rule:
First, we’re going to empower districts to use compensation to keep good teachers by stopping forced pay increases to ineffective teachers, allowing them to pay effective teachers more, and by allowing them more flexibility in how they structure salaries.
“Second we’re going to ban the practice of using seniority to make personnel decisions of any kind, including ending the practice of “last in, first out” in reductions in force, prioritizing effectiveness instead. Performance-blind personnel decisions cost money and talent.
Of course, there are still questions about how to best determine what an "effective" or "highly effective" teacher is.
Some teachers are in schools where students have had strong parental support and expectations at home their entire lives. They've had a history of good schools behind them and when they get into high school they are on or near grade level. But what of the teacher in the school where many children struggle daily just to survive, have little or no parental support, and reach high school having not been on grade level since second or third grade? Is that high school teacher going to be "ineffective" if he or she can't get that student on grade level in one school year?
The Louisiana legislature doesn't go into session until March so as of now there is no actual legislation to study. Most seem to think that Governor Jindal will get some of his measures passed but not all. He will surely come under fire from both sides.
As I said, more questions than answers at this point.