Last Modified: Wednesday, January 16, 2013 6:53 PM
When it comes to educating our children, Louisiana is no Arkansas. But someday, if we work hard — well, “Soo-ey Pig” — we might be able to catch ’em.
To be fair, Louisiana scored well in Education Week’s annual study of education — No. 15 among the states in 2012, up from 23rd in 2011 and 44th in the same study in 2008. As a state, Louisiana has come a long way in a short time and state leaders, educators, parents and students deserve at least some plaudits.
But enthusiasm should be tempered with the knowledge that our fellow states are not the toughest competition we might face — much of the civilized world ranks ahead of us — and that in some categories, our results were meager or insufficient. Overall, we rated a C+, which is better than before but not good enough. Maryland, which ranked No. 1, scored a B+.
Most troubling is that the state scored an F in K-12 achievement. While that ranking counted for only a sixth of our total Education Week score, actual achievement is what we all seek, bottom line. Other categories in the Education Week study include Chance for Success (C-); Standards, Assessments, & Accountability (A); The Teaching Profession (B-); School Finance (C); and Transitions & Alignment (B-).
And Arkansas? We cite Arkansas’ relative success in the Education Week rankings because it’s from our neighborhood, more of an apple to an apple in comparison. Arkansas scored an overall B- to our C+, a 66.3 to our 59.1 in achievement, and a B+ to our B- in the teaching profession, not to mention a Top 5 ranking. Catching Arkansas ought to be achievable, although catching Arkansas is not enough.
In truth, the Education Week study is a mixed bag. Experts grade not only on states’ results but on policies that states hold which the experts say may encourage good results.
But the states are all different in myriad ways. Maryland, Massachusetts, New York and Virginia did well, but they always do well. Part of their success may reside in policy, some might rest in their populations. States with high poverty generally lag behind — Alabama and Mississippi loitered near the back of the pack, although Alabama had better achievement than Louisiana.
If the Education Week study tells us anything it is this: In some areas, specifically in our policies, Louisiana has made advances. But our low level of achievement indicates our policies are not nearly enough. That No. 15 ranking is nice, and it is easier to tout your relative successes than to explain your plain deficiencies. But we know the deficiencies are there, and we should not be fooled. The study results encourage this mission most: Try harder.
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This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.