State superintendents target key priorities for students

Staff Report

Superintendents of the state’s public education systems are hoping key priorities they set for the current and upcoming school years will spark a positive impact on student achievement in all school districts.

Wes Watts, president of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents

The three points of emphasis include:

  • Having all students reading on grade level by the end of third grade.
  • Having student graduate with a college and/or career credentials.
  • Having more students pursue education as their profession.

“These shared priorities are focused on critical areas that are research-based in terms of their impact on successful student outcomes,” said Wes Watts, president of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents.

The priority list was developed during the fall conference for the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents last month in Baton Rouge.

Research has shown that students who are not reading on grade level by third grade have a significantly lower likelihood than their peers in terms of academic success at the middle and high school levels.

The assessments would serve as part of the state’s accountability formula. They would ensure that reading proficiency at this level is a priority.

It would also certify that student growth is effectively measured before third grade.

At the same time, superintendents are advocating for greater professional development on proving reading instruction methods, greater investment into proven curricula and materials, and greater attention to the health and overall physical wellbeing of students, which correlates to their ability to learn how to read.

The focus on graduate credentials helps schools better prepare students for postgraduate education opportunities, including four-year universities, two-year colleges, technical schools and immediate career pathways, Watts said.

“Students should leave our high schools prepared academically and socially with the skills they need to pursue their lifelong desires,” he said. “Our institutions, businesses and industries should have every assurance that our diplomas and certifications added to them are eligible of reliable indicators of a graduate’s ability and skill.

Students should be offered targeted learning opportunities to increase their ACT and WorkKeys scores, which qualify them for greater postsecondary relationships with their communities.

“We also know that we must strengthen our own profession with the best and brightest students,” he said. “A great teacher in every classroom is the most important ingredient to affecting real change and sustaining success for all our systems,” Watts said. “The state’s educational leaders have done a great job of encouraging students to pursue a multitude of professions, but in some cases, at the expense of not recruiting them into education. We must be more intentional in keeping our best in the classroom.”

School leaders should forge and strengthen partnerships with universities to increase enrollment in their Colleges of Education, to provide greater financial support for prospective educators, to support alternative certification and to bolster student organizations that promote the teaching profession.

The organization’s leadership developed the priorities in an effort to better focus measurements and priorities within the state’s accountability system, LASS Executive Director Michael Faulk said.

“Much attention in the state’s public systems has been on the health and safety of its students and employees because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and with so many policies to follow, it can be easy to focus on academic priorities,” he said. “Our school systems are having to manage new challenges and take responsibility for concerns we’ve never dealt before. And while that is critical at this time, we must not. as a collective body, forget our ultimate mission of improving student outcomes across the state and the priority list is our effort to keep the most critical areas on everyone else’s radar.”