Monday, July 18, 2005

Parsing pro-education rhetoric

An article in Sunday’s Advocate highlighted Governor Blanco’s trip to the National Governors Association convention in Iowa. The keynote speaker at the convention was Thomas Friedman who spoke about the importance of education as it ties into his “flat world” thesis. (See my post from June 25 on this very topic.) Education is front-and-center at the NGA meeting and Louisiana’s performance in that realm will be given particular scrutiny. The NGA recently recognized Louisiana as an “honor state.” Governor Blanco responded to the NGA's recognition in a July 15 press release saying she had learned Louisiana would “receive a grant from the National Governors Association to continue our groundbreaking work in high school redesign. This recognition as an ‘honor state’ by the NGA is further confirmation that Louisiana is heading in the right direction to change the way high schools serve our children.” Governor Blanco’s statement concluded, “Louisiana is aggressively moving to change how our high schools are structured and perceived by students, parents and communities. By increasing the value and relevance of a high school diploma, reducing dropout rates, and improving the classroom setting by redesigning the structure of some high schools, we are letting the state and the nation know that we are fully committed to education and to our children.” Of course it’s important that Louisiana be “fully committed to education and to our children.” But it’s also important to be able to prove the truth of such statements. Does the reality match the rhetoric? Louisiana earned D+ in school climate. Louisiana 46th “smartest state” (out of 50). Louisiana’s educational performance compared to the other 49 states using KidsCount data doesn’t look so good either. And, I believe Louisiana plays politics with education. Conclusion: Louisiana may earn high grades for “accountability” in education, but when it comes to accountability in rhetoric about education the record isn’t quite so good.