04/05 - Re-designing Louisiana’s High Schools

Are Louisiana’s high schools teaching our children what they need to know?

That’s the subject for a special town hall edition of Louisiana Public Square called "Redesigning Louisiana's High Schools." The hour-long program aired Wednesday, April 20th at 7PM on LPB and Sunday, April 24 at 4PM. It aired on WLAE-TV in New Orleans on Tuesday, April 26 at 8:30PM and Friday, April 29 at midnight.

A project of the National Governor’s Association, the Redesigning The American High School Initiative has been the subject of town hall discussions in a number of states around the country.

Panelists included Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, Board of Elementary and Secondary Education member Linda Johnson, Louisiana Association of Business and Industry President Dan Juneau and Commissioner of Higher Education Dr. E. Joseph Savoie. State Deputy Superintendent of Education Carole Wallin and Mark Musick, the president of the Southern Regional Education Board, participated in the discussion. The audience included students, parents and teachers in an open dialogue about the urgent need to improve high schools in our state. Virginia Governor Mark Warner spoke via video.

Some of the changes discussed at the National Governors Association Summit on Education earlier this year include:

* aligning high school graduation requirements with college-readiness standards;
* helping low-performing schools and students;
* increasing the number of high-quality teachers and principals;
* collecting data to better measure progress;
* strengthening accountability for high schools and colleges;
* and integrating K-12 and postsecondary education.

To gauge the effectiveness of the discussion, the LSU Public Policy Research Lab at the Manship School of Mass Communication’s Reilly Center for Media & Public Affairs polled participants before and after the town hall meeting to see if the discussion has changed anybody’s opinion on the subject. Viewers can take the same survey. The results are posted on this Web site.

LPB President Beth Courtney hosts the program with guest hosts Karen Henderson and Barry Erwin.

This program was produced in cooperation with the National Governors Association and made possible with the generous support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Backgrounder

Re-Designing Louisiana's High Schools

It used to be that a high school diploma was a young person’s ticket to success in the world of work or college studies. Not any more.

In 2004, A-C-T Assessment scores showed that only 17 percent of Louisiana high school students who took the test were adequately prepared for college and work. The exam measures college readiness in Biology, Algebra and English Composition.

High levels of enrollment in college remedial classes confirm the A-C-T results. In 2003, more than a third of college freshmen from Louisiana public schools had to take remedial courses — often, to no avail.

Nearly two thirds of Louisiana freshmen at 4 year colleges fail to earn a degree within 6 years. That puts Louisiana dead last among the 50 states in a 4 year college completion.

The results also underscore the claim by some business leaders that Louisiana’s workforce is under-educated. A recent survey by the nonpartisan Council for a Better Louisiana, found that more than 70 percent of Louisiana employers had a “somewhat difficult” or “very difficult” time finding qualified workers.

With many of those who complete high school foundering, the struggle is even greater for those who don’t graduate.

The Louisiana High School Re-Design Commission was established to develop statewide policies and guiding principles, and to recommend actions that will affect all 192 thousand public high school students in Louisiana.

Creating a better alignment between the abilities of high school graduates and the needs of employers and colleges is one of the goals of the Re-Design Commission.

Other re-design goals include: a uniform application of high academic standards; re-thinking day-to-day and yearly scheduling; requiring additional courses and dual-enrollment in college and high school courses.

Technological change has upped the ante for what high school grads need to know to be successful in work or college.

Demographic change means that by the year 2010 — just five years from now — about half the people under age 18 in Louisiana will be African, Asian, or Hispanic American.

The challenge for proponents of high school re-design is to ensure that the modifications they make to Louisiana’s secondary education institutions meet the needs of both the students and the state in a world of constant change.

URLs to check out:

http://www.2005summit.org/ The 2005 National Educational Summit on High Schools

http://www.achieve.org/ Created by the nation's governors and business leaders, Achieve, Inc., is a bipartisan, non-profit organization that helps states raise academic standards, improve assessments and strengthen accountability to prepare all young people for postsecondary education, work and citizenship.

http://www.nga.org/ The National Governor’s Association and the Redesigning The American High School Initiative.

Council for a Better Louisiana

Louisiana High School Re-Design Commission

Click here to view the LSU Before and After Survey Results

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