It can take a clean slate to produce radical improvement. In Louisiana, Hurricane Katrina cleaned the slate, and Gov. Bobby Jindal has produced the radical improvement. The governor has spearheaded radical education reforms that will produce better students, reward successful teachers, and wash out those teachers who don’t make the grade.
Some of the reform provisions signed into law by Governor Jindal are listed below. Every state education commissioner and governor ought to read and reread the provisions of the three laws that make up the Louisiana reforms and take them to heart.
HB 974 by Rep. Carter
- Under this law, more specific performance targets that consider student achievement and recruiting and retaining effective teachers would be required in the contracts of superintendents in C, D, and F districts.
- The law also requires school boards to delegate to the superintendent and principals hiring, firing, and teacher placement power and authority to make reductions in force (RIFs) primarily based on effectiveness.
- Additionally, this law gives districts the ability to construct their own salary schedules for new employees based on what they need—such as math teachers, teachers to work at high poverty schools, and performance. Under this law, districts can start rewarding current teachers based on performance and demand.
- The law says layoffs and compensation will now be done based on merit rather than longevity alone.
- The law also makes clear that tenure should be earned and not given automatically. Under this law, teachers would earn tenure after five years of highly effective ratings
HB 976 by Rep. Carter
- First, this law gives parents more levers to affect change by allowing a school to become eligible for Recovery School District (RSD) intervention after three years of failing if at least 51 percent of parents at the school sign a petition to do so.
- Second, this law creates three additional pathways to become a charter school and this legislation streamlines and improves the charter application process for all charter authorizers.
- Third, this law gives students access to more courses regardless of zip code. Under current law, students are generally funded on a per pupil basis to attend one school full time. If the school they attend does not have the courses they need or want, the student doesn’t have many options for accessing these courses. This law creates a new type of entity that can offer individual courses to students. All students at public and private schools have access to these courses, but only certain students are funded.
- Fourth, this law expands access to the Scholarship Program to students in C, D, and F schools or who are entering Kindergarten statewide whose parents make up to 250 percent of the Federal Poverty level.
SB 581 by Sen. Appel
- There are many full time and part time early childhood educational and health programs that receive a total of $1.4 billion in state and federal funds per year, plus an additional $150 million for Head Start. The system is regulatory and focused on inputs, making it difficult for early childhood providers—public and private— to navigate. There is no measure of quality that gives parents actionable information.
- Under this law, BESE would create a coordinated early childhood system by July 1, 2013 by doing four things:
- Establishing a definition of Kindergarten readiness and setting performance targets for children ages 0-2 and academic standards for children ages 3-4 based on Kindergarten readiness and aligned to the Common Core Standards for K-12.
- Creating a uniform assessment and accountability system for publicly funded programs that includes letter grades as clear actionable information for parents.
- Coordinating with DCFS and DHH to align licensing standards for childcare priorities—specifically those receiving CCAP public funds – and align the Tiered Quality Improvement Rating System with this new accountability system. This will streamline and reduce red tape for providers so that dollars flow more easily and the system is easier to navigate according to a set of aligned program standards.
- Including Head Start programs, which would have to participate in this new system and improve the quality of their programs as a condition of their licensing.
For the governor’s full press release click here.