Education’s Next Horizon Releases New Policy Report On Priority LA Education Issues

BATON ROUGE — A new research publication, the first of its kind in Louisiana, presents the state's most relevant education issues and accompanying challenges, opportunities and recommendations. Top 10 Education Issues in Louisiana was produced by Education’s Next Horizon and Orleans Public Education Network (OPEN), two nonprofit organizations working to improve outcomes in Louisiana public schools.

         The 58-page document presents ten issues identified as most critical to education in 2017 Louisiana, examining each in terms of national trends, how Louisiana is progressing, and recommended policy actions. The issues are:


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1. Expanding Access and Quality in Early Childhood

2. The Meaning of Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

3. Filling the Workforce Gap

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4. From Common Core to Louisiana Student Standards

5. The Rise of Afterschool Programs

6. Teacher Preparation and Effectiveness

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7. The State of Choice

8. School Discipline

9. School Funding and the Changing Demography of Public Education

10. Higher Education and Postsecondary Education Funding


         “This inaugural edition of Top 10 Education Issues in Louisiana is both a study of and conversation about the topics that are currently shaping the future of our state,” Nahliah Webber, Executive Director of Orleans Public Education Network and co-publisher, said. “We hope that the report will frame the debate on these issues.”

         “The report covers education polices, practices, and trends that drive the quality of life and well-being of families and children,” John Warner Smith, CEO of Education’s Next Horizon and coordinator of the project, said. “Our aim is to better inform legislators, policymakers, educators, parents, business leaders, and community leaders as we work together toward improving education outcomes at all levels.”

         “As education indicators at all levels show, Louisiana is clearly progressing, but we still have miles to go,” Deirdre Johnson Burel, a contributing writer and former OPEN director, said. “By framing the context and key policy considerations for the most important issues, this report presents a solid strategic direction.”

         Writers of the report include staff members of OPEN and Education’s Next Horizon, as well as expert policy analysts and education professionals.


         Education’s Next Horizon and OPEN’s Top 10 education policy recommendations and considerations include:


1. Expand the number of children under 4 who are served by the Child Care Assistance Program, and develop supports for continuous quality improvement for child care centers as now exists for LA4 and Head Start.


2. In implementing federal requirements of the Every Student Succeeds Act, Louisiana must consider ways to expand its accountability system to give greater consideration to non-traditional measures of student success that are equally as important as testing in improving student outcomes.


3. Filling the middle skills gap will require that we do two things: 1) graduate more high school students who are prepared for postsecondary education and careers, and 2) better train and educate the adult learning population. In spite of recent gains in increasing cohort graduation rates, too many African American students, particularly in larger districts, are failing to graduate. Local districts should examine and implement the policy recommendations of America’s Promise Grad Nation.


4. If, in the long-term, Louisiana is to fulfill the expectations of higher K-12 standards and better prepare its students to succeed in post-secondary education and compete in the global economy, the state has to ensure educational equity beginning at birth. In addition, district and school leaders have to engage all segments of the community on goals that seek to raise the bar for all students rather than on closing achievement gaps between groups inside particular schools and districts.


5. In the face of federal budget cuts for afterschool programs, the Louisiana Center for Afterschool Learning (LACAL) is promoting higher quality in afterschool programs through expanded community partnerships, stronger professional development, and broader support for afterschool as a cost-effective solution to the staggering costs of juvenile detention and grade retention.


6. More data are needed to know whether the candidates completing teacher preparation programs are obtaining a Professional license to teach in Louisiana and obtaining teaching positions in public schools in Louisiana after graduation. If they don’t obtain a Professional license after completing their programs, workforce needs will not be met. Louisiana might also benefit from an outside, independent study of its teacher preparation policies and programs and their relationship to teacher effectiveness in the classroom to determine what will work or is working and what needs to be changed.


7. Given the fiscal situation facing the state, Louisiana should maximize the efficiency of the Student Scholarships for Education Excellence Program (Vouchers) by limiting access to students coming from failing schools and excluding entry at Kindergarten. Additionally, we should continue to evaluate the program to determine if it has an impact on student achievement and use these results to inform any future investment in the program.


8. Employ other strategies beyond suspension as a component of addressing student misconduct and violations including proactive strategies leveraging positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS) and relational approaches after an offense has occurred. In addition, we should restrict the use of suspension and expulsion by excluding the state’s youngest learners (K-3).


9. Several steps can be taken to begin addressing the issue of “equity” in funding public education. These include publishing statewide data on how all dollars (state, federal and local) are leveraged to support equity (by parish and by subgroup);  funding  other programs such as early childhood education and extended day/year learning, that play a critical role in addressing academic gaps among children of poverty and other disadvantaged populations; and providing quality data on a consistent basis on the demographics of public education, how we spend state dollars, and how increased investment in public education can benefit the state’s future economic growth.


10. Today, the issues surrounding Louisiana’s colleges and universities are being driven by losses in funding, better defined state priorities, new technologies, and the need to be more inclusive and educate more citizens regardless of age or economic background. A number of policy options that can address these challenges are included in recommendations made by Governor John Bel Edwards’ Higher Education Transition Committee.


         Funding for the project was provided by Reily Foundation, Entergy Louisiana, the Institute of Mental Hygiene (IMH), Louisiana Public Facilities Authority (LPFA), Emprint Printing, and deGravelles & Associates.

         View the full report here



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