Thursday, 17 November 2011 04:37

Louisiana Education Reform, Grad Act Is LEAP Backwards

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louisiana_capitol_2Colleges throughout the state are presently conducting early registration for students attending the coming Spring 201 2 semester. We urge everyone to take this opportunity to come to your respective campus and register early. The obvious reason is to get the classes you desire at the times you need them.

That having been said, it is time also to take the State Legislature into account for the GRAD Act. As is usually the case, government representatives mean well. But they too often lack sufficient understanding that what they mandating often destroys that which they hope to accomplish.

Presently, the state is establishing guidelines for colleges that seek to encourage retention of students and graduation rates by rewarding those campuses that achieve certain levels of both. However, that would be grand were this an ideal world. Unfortunately, education in Louisiana is anything but IDEAL…

Presently about 72% of students who enroll in college for the first time need developmental courses to get them up to basic college entry standards. Some students actually need three developmental courses: Reading, English, and Math. They are that far behind.

Colleges are expected to make up the shortfall of a failing K-12 system in two semesters! Then in two years, four additional semesters, students should pass the required courses for an Associate Degree. How is that possible? How can twelve years of lost education be made up in one year then have the same student educated on a college level in just two more years?

Obviously the LEAP test is failing. Otherwise, one can only believe that students leave high school having passed a basic competency exam, then over the summer lose everything they have learned. Are we to believe it just falls out of their heads?

Having destroyed K-12 with a well intentioned, but a failed procedure, the legislature now seeks to impose success on colleges based upon statistical dreams. The new mantra is “Retention and Completion”. Thus, if one wishes to “Retain” students and have them “Complete” coursework and graduate to meet mandated guidelines, colleges will have to keep students on campus who do not meet the basic standards and graduate students who lack the legitimate requirements to graduate.

The end result will undoubtedly look good on paper…Louisiana’s college graduation numbers will improve and more students will be in college. However, it will not take too long before employers learn that Louisiana’s graduates lack basic skills expected of college graduates which will in turn compromise the entire reputation of higher education in Louisiana.

Education is the key to economic development and prosperity. Louisiana lags far behind other states in this regard. This is not the time to “fix the numbers” so that we look good. Louisiana must make a concerted effort to examine the problem, correct the problem, and begin to properly educate our children so that they are prepared for the challenges of the future. The course we are presently taking will serve to only perpetuate the crisis we have today. Stop trying to manage from the top. Allow school boards and faculty members freedom in the classroom to tailor coursework to achieving legitimate skills…not seeking to achieve statistical models based upon marginal testing methodologies.

To quote the physicist Heisenberg: "The very process of measuring one quantity alters a complimentary property.” To crudely paraphrase him: To measure something is to destroy it! Let’s quit measuring education and start educating. Teachers should dedicate their time and energy to teaching. Stop taking their time away from their primary task by making them fill out meaningless measurement forms and administering standardized tests. Perhaps then students will actually learn something! Ok?

by Ron Chapman

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