State Superintendent of Education John White. (Donna Price / American Press)
Last Modified: Tuesday, October 02, 2012 1:37 PM
Half of Louisiana’s students entering Kindergarten know the alphabet and can count to 20, state Superintendent of Education John White told the American Press editorial board on Monday.
“A lot of the challenges we see in Louisiana are because our kids get so far behind so quickly,” he said. “By third grade, half of our students are below grade level in either math or English-Language Arts, or both. These facts are pretty stunning.”
White spoke about “Louisiana Believes,” which includes Acts 1, 2 and 3 approved during this year’s legislative session.
Under Act 3, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education can establish a “unified system” of pre-K, which, he said will fix the current “fragmented system.” In December, the state Department of Education will submit a report to the board detailing the new pre-K system, White said. The board will review it and submit it to the state Legislature. He said the goal is to implement the new system by 2014-2015 school year.
“This is to create one system of unified funding and accountability,” White said. “It will be a real shift for day care providers and the Head Start Program.”
The other components of “Louisiana Believes” include the move to the Common Core State Standards and the implementation of Compass, the state’s new teacher evaluation system. Earlier in the day, White visited students and teachers at South Cameron High School and Midland High School to see how Compass and the Common Core Standards are working. He is currently visiting schools in 26 parishes.
White said he believes teachers statewide are focused on implementing Compass and setting student achievement goals. He said the Common Core Standards teach students to learn more detailed skills over time.
“We started working with (teachers) this year by moderately changing our tests,” White said.
Changes to the accountability system include no points for students performing below the basic grade level, and bonuses for helping improve a low-performing student.
White said the “Louisiana Believes” plan includes believing in students, families and educators. He said the work with students starts with early childhood education.
With families, he said the department received a record number of charter school applications, and that 5,000 students out of 10,000 applicants were placed in the scholarship program for non-public schools.
“The best plan for school choice is making every school a good choice,” White said. “These programs address a relatively small number of students across the state, but because they are students in the most challenging circumstances, I think they show promise, especially for those families.”
White said only 121 out of the state’s 385 high schools offer advanced placement courses. Currently, he said the state is the lowest performing in the nation in advanced placement courses and has the lowest number of students taking AP tests. White said 300 teachers were trained this summer to teach advanced placement classes.
Through the Course Choice program, he said the department has asked corporations, including industry-based providers, to help train students for career and high school credit. White said the state has received several applications for the program, and that state law requires those applicants to be reviewed by BESE on a three-year term, based on academic outcomes.
White said teachers need to be empowered to be decision makers, and that the accountability system by itself will not improve education in the state.
“The other half of the equation is how do you unlock the creative potential of our educators,” he said. “We have too much of a compliance (and) mandate-driven culture right now in our schools.”
Those changes are being made by reorganizing the state department into a set of “network teams” that bring together school districts based on location and demographics, White said.
“We’re going to put the state’s best educators there to support you and your plans to adopt Common Core Standards, rather than have different offices that come and tell you how to do your business,” he said.
If the state holds teachers accountable for student performance, White said that teachers must be empowered. He said that can happen by removing the comprehensive curriculum, and trusting educators to make decisions on what activities to teach and which textbooks to use.
He said Act 1 has helped empower superintendents and principals by allowing them, instead of school boards, to decide which teachers should be allowed in classrooms.
White said putting all of the education changes into place will take time and that the state is in the “start of a significant shift in education.”
“We shouldn’t be under the impression that all of this is going to have a system-wide change effect in three months,” he said.
Posted By: Lee P. Barrios, M.Ed., NBCT On: 10/9/2012
Title: Lee Barrios
This is not a newspaper report. This is a speech broken up into a series of statements. How much did John White pay the American Press to print his advertisement for him?
You don't have to be an educator to see all the contradictions (aside from lies) in White's rhetoric. As a National Board Certified Teacher recently retired and deeply involved in efforts to bring meaningul change to save our public education system, I can tell you that "reform" in Louisiana is a dismal failure beginning with the Recovery School Disttrict once ruled by King White.
Think about it - would you want a 36 year old two-year Teach for America grad with with a bachelors degree and no other real world or education experience writing policy for your schools? Neither do we. Tonight and tomorrow night, the St. Tammany Parish School Board - highest performing large district in the state, are holding two forums for the public to explain how White's reform is well on its way to privatization, replacing our 100% certified teacher staff with unqualified Teach for America personnel, robbing the district of its locally dedicated tax millages, cutting the budget for the fourth year and just plain deceiving the public. Watch for press reports. Or better yet - send your own reporters for the TRUTH.
Posted By: deutsch29 On: 10/2/2012
Title: Louisiana Believes is a sham.
White speaks out of both sides of his mouth. He has no plans to empower educators. He doesn't even hire them in the DOE.