Today, Governor Bobby Jindal addressed the Department of Education's release of the state's first ever letter grade report card for Louisiana schools, which shows that 44 percent of Louisiana schools are failing -- getting either a D or F letter grade. Governor Jindal advocated for the new letter grade legislation in 2010 to provide greater transparency on the performance of public schools for parents, students, and the community.
Governor Jindal said, "The Department of Education just released letter grades for each of Louisiana's public schools and districts -- for the first time in our state's history. The bottom line is that 44 percent of schools received a D or F and more than one-third of students are not on grade level. This is unacceptable.
"We pushed for this law so parents have the information they need to understand the performance of the schools their children attend and the performance of the school districts those schools are in. I am proud that BESE didn't water down these results. They are straight forward and do exactly what we wanted -- give parents a clear, accurate picture of the performance of the school their child attends.
"I want to say it again -- the bottom line here on these scores comes down to one word: unacceptable. If any of my kids brought home a report card with almost half of Ds and Fs, I know we would have some serious work to do to get them back on track. Government should be no different. It is unacceptable for the report card of our schools to be nearly half Ds and Fs.
"We cannot prepare Louisiana's workforce of tomorrow with a school system where one-third of our students are not on grade level and 44 percent of our schools are failing.
"We don't need excuses. Instead of trying the same old tired techniques and expecting different results, we need more innovation, more reform, and more improvement--and we need it fast. We cannot wait 40 or 50 years and just hope time changes things.
"We've made a lot of growth as a state over the last three years - in 2007, around 55 percent of Louisiana's schools would have earned D's and F's; today, that number stands at 44 percent - a 20 percent decline. But, at the rate we're going, we will continue to graduate entire generations of students before we can ensure a high quality educational option for every student. There is no excuse to sit back and wait. It is unconscionable to stand up and say that a C is enough for our state or that 44 percent of our schools getting a D or and F is acceptable."
HIGHLIGHT RSD GAINS
Governor Jindal also pointed out the progress of the Recovery School District as an example that choice, accountability and transparency drives performance:
* For three of the last four years, Louisiana's school turnaround model has been ranked highest for the percentage of gains achieved from one year to the next.
* Schools in the RSD Improved by 6.7 points or 11 percent - more than three times the average statewide gain for all schools (2.2 points, or 2.4 percent).
GOVERNOR SAYS REFORMS NEEDED
The Governor concluded his press conference with a call for major reforms in the education system. The Governor said, "This is exactly why we're going to have an aggressive package of reforms next session. I want to highlight the four major pillars of that new reform model, including 1) Kids trapped in failing schools need more choice, 2) We must hold schools accountable for their failure to educate our children to even basic grade level standards, 3) We must reward excellence -- in teachers and schools by expanding our value added program, and 4) We must not tolerate failure.
"Our need for more choice, accountability, transparency and rewarding excellence are also why we pushed for the Red Tape Reduction Act. Public schools need all the tools possible to them to remove bureaucratic red tape and operate flexibly to meet the unique needs of students in different districts all across the state.
"I am sure we will hear a lot of excuses attacking the methodology of these letter grades. We will hear a lot of nitpicking and explaining that if schools just had more time, they could improve. Here is the problem with that -- excuses don't cut it. Kids only grow up once.
"To you parents with kids in failing schools, I have a message for you -- do not accept failure. Demand change. To you teachers, who are working hard every day to educate our children, my message to you is that -- help is on the way. We will work hard to bring you teachers that are just as hard working as you are to work along side you and transform all of our schools to high-performing institutions of excellence. To the people of Louisiana, let me be clear about this -- I will not accept failure in our schools.
"To all of you candidates for the Legislature and BESE, get ready. Because if you get elected and come to Baton Rouge to serve the people, my first order of business is going to be to roll up our sleeves and get to work on reforming our school system. We must reform our education system. Failure is no longer an option."