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Louisiana has been firmly in the grip of “reformers” (i.e., believers in privatization, Teach for America, and high-stakes testing) for many years. The “reformers’” biggest coup was the complete demolition of public schools in New Orleans, in the years following the catastrophic Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Buoyed by funding from out-of-state billionaires, the proponents of disruption took control of the state board of education (Board of Elementary and Secondary Education). Apologists for privatization still point to New Orleans as their proof point of success, but the state has recently assigned grades of D or F to about half of its schools.
In January 2012, John White, one of the stars of the privatization industry, was selected by the state board as superintendent of the state. He served for eight years. During that time, Louisiana dropped to near the bottom of the nation on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
After White resigned, the state board chose Cade Brumley, an experienced Louisiana educator who had held district superintendencies in the state
After reformers hyped the “success” of reform in the state for 15 years, Brumley recently revealed that reading scores had declined in the early grades.
A new report shows reading scores for Louisiana’s youngest students have plunged for three consecutive years, raising red flags over arguably the state’s top challenge for improving achievement in the classroom.
The issue is getting new attention after state leaders learned last week that reading levels for students in kindergarten, first, second and third grades have all steadily dropped.
More than half of students in all four grades are performing below grade level, a potential harbinger of major learning problems.
“Clearly what we are doing is not getting the results that our kids deserve,” state Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley told the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Former state board member Leslie Jacobs, who was one of the most outspoken cheerleaders for the demolition of public schools in New Orleans, said that Louisiana needed to follow the Florida model. Florida gets high fourth-grade reading scores by gaming the system; it holds back third-graders who are not up to grade level. This artificially inflates the state’s scores on fourth-grade NAEP. By eighth grade, however, the Florida readings scores are mediocre; you can’t hold back the low-scoring readers forever.