Learning from the best | Report applauds Louisiana’s education overhaul efforts

Marlisa Harding | Aug 1, 2019

Bold changes to Louisiana’s public schools have created a model education system that other states can learn from, according to a recent report by RAND Corporation, a global public policy research organization.

Since Superintendent John White’s appointment in 2012, the state has restructured its early childhood education system and its requirements for graduates and teachers, core curriculum and graduation pathways for college and career.

One key to Louisiana’s success was the “buy-in” from local, state and auxiliary agencies, aided by streamlined communication.

“Early on, Louisiana education policy makers highlighted the need to streamline and improve communication across all stakeholder groups, from higher education partners and employers to school system staff, and to create programs to support and elevate teachers as leaders in their school systems,” the report reads.

Over time, Louisiana ensured teachers had resources and training to implement new curriculum.

“This study provides strong evidence that schools will take up high-quality resources that are provided to them. But it also illustrates frustrations and unintended consequences that can emerge when education providers do not have the resources and capacity they need.”

Major education overhauls on the state level often lead to unforeseen challenges, some of which were found in Louisiana’s historically disadvantaged students, the report stated.

“Even the best-intended changes will not affect everyone equally, and they may present particular challenges for centers and school systems serving at-risk students, which may be starting out with fewer resources and less capacity to make changes,” the report reads.

The report ultimately applauded Louisiana’s efforts saying the findings “may be useful to education policy makers in other states that are seeking to make system changes to their public education systems from early childhood to high school and beyond.”

During a joint hearing of the federal Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education and the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Investment, White spoke of Louisiana’s success in education reform.

“Louisiana is far from having achieved the education system its students and citizens deserve,” he said. “But we are proud of the improvements we have set in motion and of the accomplishments of our students.”