Published online March 16, 2017 in the Shreveport Times as a "Letter to the Editor"
By Dr. Philip Rozeman, Willis-Knighton Health System, Alliance for Education
Over the last few weeks, there has been a great deal of discussion and much written about the school buildings of Caddo Parish. What has garnered less discussion are the successes and challenges of Caddo Parish School leaders and teachers as they work to provide opportunities for the children of this community.
There is no doubt that the rightsizing of the school district is an important issue. In a school system with limited resources in a community with a shrinking school-age population, it is important to talk about efficient use of school building space. There should always be constant focus on maximizing resources into the classroom.
The Alliance for Education “Path to Excellence” program honors schools in the top 25 percent of the state based on the amount of improvement from one year to the next on their School Performance Scores. In the year before last, we honored seven schools in Caddo Parish. In the past year, we recognized 21 schools. These schools were in every part of our community – both the suburbs and the inner city. There is no doubt Caddo Parish has seen progress in school improvement.
However, despite this progress, our school system leaders know we still have a way to go. We still have far too many schools with grades of D or F.
For that reason, Caddo school leadership has been working with the Louisiana Department of Education to develop a plan to address the most important issue of school improvement – great teaching in every classroom. Wednesday, Caddo Superintendent Lamar Goree and Louisiana Superintendent John White announced a bold plan for school improvement in the schools that serve our inner city.
Too often significant school improvement is dependent on a superhuman effort of a principal and teacher faculty. Because of burnout, this effort cannot be sustained over long periods without an ongoing support model. This Caddo’s Transformation Next plan is built on a sustainable model.
The Louisiana Department of Education and Caddo schools will work together to initiate the Teacher Advancement Program (TAP) model based on the development of great teaching in every school classroom in our inner city schools. TAP is a model that develops great teachers where they are needed the most. It is a model that will support and honor the work of teachers willing to work in the most difficult environments.
Caddo schools are not just playing at the edge of school reform. This plan goes beyond a focus on preventing state takeover of three or four schools. The school system is making itself more accountable for major school improvement in every school in our inner city.
In the past, our school system wasted too much energy fighting with the state. Instead, today, Caddo schools are working with the Louisiana Department of Education to make Caddo Parish a leader in sustainable school reform in the state and nation.
Most importantly, Caddo schools are doing this by concentrating on efforts to support great teaching and school leadership. The TAP model requires significant investment, but our school leaders at the state and district level are willing to make that investment for our children.
Lastly, Caddo schools have tied significant accountability parameters to the investments at the district, school, state and community levels. Our schools and our community are accepting responsibility for actualizing the wisdom that “a rising tide raises all boats”.
At the community session to outline the plan, Shreveport Mayor Ollie Tyler challenged all of us to engage with these inner city schools to make our community better. She then closed with a quote from Nelson Mandela: “Education is the most powerful weapon to change the world.”
Our community will not be all it can be until we accept the challenges posed by Mayor Tyler and Superintendents Goree and White.
Dr. Phillip Rozeman is a physician, founder of the Alliance for Education and recent past Chairman of the Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce.