Early in January, Louisiana’s educational policies were given an overall grade of B- from Sacramento-based education reform lobbying group Students First. The group gave failing grades to 11 states, including Massachusetts and other states with higher standardized test scores than Louisiana’s. According to StudentsFirst, Louisiana’s education policies rank second in the nation, just behind Florida’s.
Founded and run by controversial former Washington D.C. education reformer Michelle Rhee, StudentsFirst judged the states’ education policies based on three categories: how strictly the state evaluates teachers, the effort each state’s schools put toward “empowering” parents, and how well the state governs schools and allocates educational funds.
StudentsFirst’s evaluation puts the onus for success squarely on teachers and principals. The group awarded Louisiana’s schools an A grade (the highest grade in the nation) for teacher evaluation. “[Louisiana] has adopted meaningful educator evaluations,” says StudentsFirst’s website, “and it requires districts to base all personnel and salary decisions on classroom effectiveness.”
The group gave Louisiana a C for its ability to communicate to parents the success of their children’s schools and its teachers, and to provide opportunities to move children to different schools, though the study concludes that the state has room to improve: “Louisiana’s parent trigger law is unique because the only turnaround option it provides parents is to petition to transfer a low-performing school to the RSD. Louisiana could strengthen its parent trigger law by [instead] giving parents the option of implementing one the four Race to the Top intervention models.”
Though she agrees with many of StudentsFirst’s policy suggestions, Sametta Brown, CEO of Capital One-New Beginnings Charter School Network, believes that in placing the onus on school faculties, the evaluation’s “parent empowerment” section ignores some important factors. Brown sites a lack of support in the home as a big impedance to both student and teacher performance. “Many parents have not internalized the fact that they are the child’s first teacher,” said Brown. “Some parents think they just send their children to school. But parents are expected to teach their kids as well.”
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Here’s a clip of the PBS documentary about Michelle Rhee: