Education

What's happening with Louisiana's schools, colleges, universities, and ongoing education reform.

When it comes to higher education, we've all heard the talking points: More people than ever are pursuing four-year degrees — despite skyrocketing tuition costs — because they don't have many other choices if they want to be competitive in the workforce.

Little children are big news this week, as the White House holds a summit on early childhood education on Wednesday. The president wants every 4-year-old to go to preschool, but the new Congress is unlikely to foot that bill.

Since last year, more than 30 states have expanded access to preschool. But there's still a lack of evidence about exactly what kinds of interventions are most effective in those crucial early years.

It's Saturday in East Nashville, Tenn., and LaTonya White finds herself knocking on a stranger's door. It's awkward. Someone peers out at her through the window. White looks away, pretending not to notice. After an uncomfortable few seconds, the door finally cracks open. White seizes her chance:

"My name is LaTonya White. I'm the principal at Rosebank Elementary School. How are you doing?" she asks, glancing at the clipboard in her hands. On it: a list of families in the area with soon-to-be kindergartners. "Yes, you should have a child ready to come to school soon."

This story was reported for the radio by Eric Westervelt and for online by Anya Kamenetz.

"We, the Committee of Public Safety, find Jean Valjean guilty. The sentence is death by guillotine!"

Molly McPherson, a redhead with glasses, is dressed in a blue bathrobe — in costume as Robespierre. Her seventh-graders are re-enacting the French Revolution's Reign of Terror, with a little assist from Les Miserables.

In Taneka Hawkins' classroom, 20 kindergarteners wiggle through a mid-morning dance break, waving their arms and jumping around to a guided dance video. It's busy, to be sure, and a bit crowded.

"The children are so small, and a lot of things that we do have to be so hands on, and it's kind of hard when it is more than 20," Hawkins says. A class size of 15, she adds, would be ideal. "I think we could reach more students with that smaller class size."

The state Dept. of Education has been rolling out all sorts of tests results in the last few weeks – student test scores, teacher evaluations, and school performance calculations.


Former Florida GOP Gov. Jeb Bush defended the Common Core education standards Thursday, but offered an olive branch to Republican activists who oppose them and are making them a litmus test for potential 2016 presidential candidates.

Bush's longtime support has put him crosswise with part of the Republican base. He said that he finds the new angst over Common Core "troubling," but that there is room for disagreement among those who more generally support school reform.

In New Orleans, schools have long struggled to provide for students with physical, emotional and mental disabilities. Even before Hurricane Katrina, many parents had to fight for extra help. But many say things have only gotten harder since the city's public school district shifted almost entirely to charter schools.

This fall the NPR Ed team is celebrating great teachers and examining what makes great teaching.

Headmaster Josh LaSage in Hosanna Christian Academy's in 2012 in "war room" where the student progress is tracked.
Sue Lincoln

In 2012, when Louisiana’s taxpayer funded scholarship program was expanded statewide, Hosanna Christian Academy in Baton Rouge went all in.

In that first year, the school took on almost 300 voucher students, nearly doubling its enrollment. By the start of this school year, Hosanna had more voucher students than any other school in the state -- about 85 percent of its student are enrolled with a voucher. 

Hosanna's students didn't score well enough on state tests, and it won't be allowed to enroll more voucher students next year. Still, headmaster Josh LaSage says the school isn't giving up. 


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