Louisiana officially ranked 49th out of all the states when it comes to overall quality of education.

A recent study put out by financial analysis website Wallethub.com has ranked the quality of the schools by state across the U.S., and Louisiana ranked near the bottom in this list.

Louisiana officially ranked 49th out of all the states when it comes to overall quality of education.

Why did Louisiana rank so poorly?

Wallethub.com Analyst Jill Gonzalez spoke on the issues that drag down Louisiana schools, stating that one of the big issues is are low test scores.

“Louisiana's poor ranking was mostly influenced by the poor math and reading test scores of 4th and 8th graders, and the very low share of public high school students with good scores in their advanced placement exams.” Gonzalez said.

While those statistics are troubling, local school systems have made strides to improve scores across the board.

The Louisiana Department of Education has recently announced that there is a new accountability tracker that puts goals in place for schools across the state called LEAP 2025. Louisiana Educational Assessment Program (LEAP) is an assessment test that students take in the 4th and 8th grades.

This year will be the first year that the schools’ LEAP 2025 assessment scores will be featured on the School Finder published later this Fall. Schools are graded on an A-F scale.

Starting in 2025 schools will have to maintain a growth rating of 100 percent to receive an “A” grade.

Schools that are struggling will have to submit an improvement plan with the state.

State Superintendent John White praised the new assessment for it’s comprehensive data and it’s accurate representation of a student’s improvement.

"Academic achievement indicates whether students are prepared for the next level of study. Student progress indicates whether students are improving from one year to the next. Together, achievement and progress provide a more complete picture," State Superintendent John White said. "Now the state's accountability system measures not only where students ended up, but how much progress they made to get there."

Beauregard Parish School Superintendent Timothy Cooley commented on the goals that are in place for students in Beauregard Parish Schools thanks to LEAP 2025.

“Beauregard Parish schools are constantly focused on providing an excellent education for each student,” said Cooley. “With the state of Louisiana’s transition to a new accountability system LEAP 2025 which will measure student achievement at the end of the year as well as student growth during the year, Beauregard schools will continue to focus on the individual needs of each student and providing resources toward helping each student learn and grow.

“We will continue to enhance our college prep classes and JumpStart pathways so that our high school students can direct their courses toward their future goals.”  

Cooley mentioned that Beauregard Parish Schools have a 94.7 percent graduation rate and are among the top ten in the state in high school graduation.

The Vernon Parish school system is also touting its rising scores and readiness for the new state accountability program.

Vernon Parish School Superintendent James Williams praised the hard work of the teachers in his school district and is confident that Vernon Parish Schools will rise to the occasion with these new standards.

“I’m proud of the schools we have here in this parish and the hard work that all of the employees do,” Williams said. “The state is raising the bar, but we’ve raised ours too.”

According to Curriculum Director Anne Smith, Vernon Parish Schools are above the state average in both English and Math growth ratings.

“We are at 53 percent (growth rating) in ELA. The state average is 43 percent,” Smith said. “And in math, we’re at 42 percent (growth rating) compared to the state average of 33 percent.”

Gonzalez added that she had both a short term and a long term solution to the test score problem in her analysis.

In the short term plan, Gonzalez emphasized how a smaller class size with students receiving more individual attention is an immediate step that schools should consider.

"A lower pupil-teacher ratio could greatly affect the way students learn, the attention they receive individually, and test score improvement in general." Gonzalez explained.

In the long term, Gonzalez suggested that after school study groups for younger students could help those that need extra time to learn a subject that is difficult to them.

One aspect that many do not consider in education is the number of qualified teachers in the school system.

This was one of the aspects that Louisiana ranked on the lower end of.

Gonzalez noted that Louisiana has a great deal of qualified teachers, but not in comparison to the rest of the country.

“97.37 percent of public elementary and secondary school teachers meet certification requirements. While this may seem like a high percentage, Louisiana ranks 37th in this category, which indicates there is still room for improvement." Gonzalez said.

A question that often arises when speaking about improving school quality is “are schools receiving adequate funding?”

Wallethub.com’s analysis showed that while Louisiana is ranked near the bottom of the list in overall quality education, it receives an objectively good amount of funding.

According to Gonzalez, the issue she finds for Louisiana Schools is not in how much money they receive, it is where that money gets allocated.

"The state's budget for public elementary and secondary day schools is currently $11,234 per student, which is just about average nationwide,” Gonzalez said. “So it's not necessarily more financing, but better allocation, that could only help the quality of Louisiana's education system."

Cooley mentioned that in Beauregard Parish assessing the budget and trying to allocate money where it will be used best is a more daunting task than people realize realizes.

He added that the funding that comes in the previous year is not guaranteed to return in the next, and that the money that the board receives is prone to fluctuate.

This provides a difficult challenge when putting together a budget for the parish school system.

“We must create a budget that meets the current and projected needs of the system while at the same time relying on projecting revenues that may or may not come to fruition during the year.”

Cooley emphasized that in Beauregard Parish they attempt to stay on the cutting edge of technology as much as possible to give students the most up to date learning experience.

“Providing access to current technology that enhances the instructional process is important for education today,” said Cooley. “Beauregard Parish has a Technology Training Center that helps equip teachers to use tools such as Promethean Boards, iPads, Chromebooks, Active Slates, and the like to engage students in interactive learning situations.”

While Louisiana schools face a large task when it comes to improvement on a national scale, it seems as if leaders on local and state levels are putting in the work to produce a quality education for the students.

Gonzalez mentioned that since Wallethub.com started ranking state school systems in 2014, that Louisiana has performed near the bottom each time.

The solutions to the problems she mentioned seem to coincide with the new accountability measures recently put into place.

With individual school ratings to be published later this Fall, it may only be a matter of time before Louisiana starts climbing the list.

 

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