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Louisiana Progress Journal Progressive ideas and pragmatic solutions Louisiana Progress Initiative LPI is an independent, not-for-profit endeavor advancing progressive policy solutions to make the lives of Louisianans better. We promote bold ideas and positive dialogue to shape the public debate and strategically engage policymakers, advocates, and concerned citizens. TABLE OF CONTENTS (Page 2) Game Theory: The Tucker Commission and the Collapse of (some of) Louisiana Four-Year Institutions, by William Broussard, PhD (Page5) Reforming Education: The Pros and Cons of Merit Pay for Teachers, by Ryan Mick, MEd, JD (Page 8) SPECIAL REPORT. The Career Diploma: A Reform Failure, by Joshua Stockley, PhD (Page 17) MEDIA SPOTLIGHT. Stay, Brady, Stay

December 2009, v1.2 Contact the Louisiana Progress Initiative: Web: www.LaProgress.org Email: info@LaProgress.org Phone: 504.322.4702


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Welcome to the Louisiana Progress Journal, version 1.2! Thanks for checking out the second edition of our once-a-quarter policy journal. This issue includes two articles and a report on education reform in Louisiana. Our group of three diverse authors includes a political scientist and radio show host; a sports administrator, former college football player, and college professor; and a lawyer, alternative-certification New Orleans teacher, and policy researcher. What all of them share is a home in Louisiana and a passion for making our state better. We believe that progress in our communities and across Louisiana can be best achieved through innovation – progressive ideas that break from the status quo, challenge our traditional beliefs, and lead to effective solutions to our common challenges. We hope you’ll consider joining us in this mission. Enjoy, and please feel free to send, print, or share this journal freely! - The Editors

Game Theory: The Tucker Commission and the Collapse of (some of) Louisiana FourYear Institutions By William Broussard, PhD Jenga! is a game that involves the careful removal of building blocks from a standing structure one at a time, with the intent of keeping the structure intact. The game awards the deftness of each player at removing those blocks deemed unnecessary to the building’s fortitude without collapsing the structure onto itself. And yet, the endgame is the destruction of said structure when the fatal decision is made to remove an errant piece, or to remove a critical piece with haste or lack of proper planning. In much the same way, the Louisiana Post-Secondary Education Review Committee, aka “The Tucker Commission” or “LAPERC,” has been tasked by Governor Bobby Jindal to eliminate unnecessary parts of Louisiana’s higher education structure hastily while keeping the whole system in one piece. Considering the speed with which the commission is

assigned to work1, it is as if this game of Jenga! is being played as a game of Operation, meaning that the danger of destroying the entire structure is compounded with the pressure of acting all-tooquickly – as if the structure will be destroyed if we do not act quickly enough to destroy it ourselves. This has led many critics to question what elements of Louisiana’s four-year higher education system can be removed safely without its ultimate destruction, or if the intention is truly to destroy the original structure and erect a new one in its place – only to start the game over. However, the potential consequences of rash education reform could have profound financial, cultural, and political ramifications that would remove it from the realm of good-natured sport. The Players The Commission is charged with performing a rigorous analysis of the state of higher education in Louisiana, ostensibly through close consultation with representatives from the state’s institutions and 1

Assembled in Summer 2009, they are set to make final recommendations in February 2010. From “Postsecondary Education Review Commission Make Initial Recommendation (sic),” October 27, 2009.

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with the guidance of individuals from accreditation boards and higher education administrators from the region. A letter from LAPERC states that “the 2009 Louisiana Legislature, with strong support from Governor Jindal, passed legislation sponsored by House Speaker Jim Tucker (Act 309) creating the Postsecondary Education Review Commission to study the governance, facilities, funding, operations, and number and alignment of degree programs at Louisiana public colleges.”2 Such a study would seem to require analyses that would take years to complete3, however, the Commission has only been granted nine months to complete its task of potentially overhauling higher education and the four-year college systems in Louisiana. On paper, the committee appears well-suited for the assigned task – diversely constituted and consisting of individuals from the business world as well “…steep cuts to as higher education, which seems the right higher education mix in a time in which intended to force there is increased reform through a pressure for colleges and universities to raise kind of economic revenues, trim budgets, shock therapy.” and operate more efficiently. According to Jordan Blum of “The Advocate Capitol News Bureau,” the Tucker Commission is composed of representatives from higher education accreditation and oversight boards4

Game Theory – continued as well as university system board members5 and others with vested interests in Louisiana higher education6. However, there are serious questions that need to be addressed about the impetus, approach, and mission of the Commission, all of which point to the timetable of the Commission’s work more than the mission itself. Winners and Losers One of the charges of the Commission is to study “funding *…+ (and) operations” at four-year institutions. However, recommendations have already been made which suggest severe budget cuts are ensured, and the state’s four-year institutions are already making plans to absorb them. Proponents of Louisiana higher education, close followers of Louisiana politics, and four-year public university employees know that Louisiana’s institutions of higher learning are in a cycle of extreme budget cuts. What they may not know is that for University of Louisiana System schools these cuts will amount to as much as 40% in cuts over the next three years. The first round of reductions resulted in steep cuts to higher education intended to force reform through a kind of economic shock therapy7. The Louisiana Senate did nothing to reduce the cuts, though Governor Jindal used rainy day funds to limit them to $119 million statewide8. More cuts are set to follow.

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“Postsecondary Education Review Commission Make Initial Recommendation (sic),” October 27, 2009. 3 Such as comparable programs like the multi-year “Focused Excellence” initiative from 2002-2006 in the State of Arizona, which merged programs and significantly altered higher education at the state’s three public institutions (Arizona, Arizona State, and Northern Arizona). From “Our Opinion: Likins leaves behind stronger UA,” Tucson Citizen, http://www.tucsoncitizen.com/ss/related/17741. 4 The Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education, Southern Regional Educational Board, Equal Opportunity in Higher Education, and Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and the Louisiana Board of Regents, http://www.2theadvocate.com/blogs/politicsblog/51622732.ht ml.

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A former University of Louisiana System Board member, a UNO Board of Directors Member, and a former chancellor of LSU, http://www.2theadvocate.com/blogs/politicsblog/51622732.ht ml. 6 A Louisiana Technical College graduate, and, originally until there was considerable protest, a Southern University Board Chairman and a LSU Board Chairman, http://www.2theadvocate.com/blogs/politicsblog/51622732.ht ml. 7 Which, according to Naomi Klein, in The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, includes the “withdrawal of state subsidies” in order to encourage or allow privatization of the public sphere to decrease government investment in areas which corporations or other entities can derive private gain. 8 See “The Games We Play: College Athletics in a Recession and SB 335, http://issuu.com/laprogress/docs/lpijournal1.

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If this is the case, does the Commission exist merely to substantiate what is already a foregone conclusion? And if the projected budget shortfalls over the next three years are reversed, what then? Is it even a possibility that the Commission could find that these severe budget cuts are not the answer? It would appear that the Commission is moving so quickly because its recommendations are the horse behind the cart. Rep. Tucker’s claim that certain parts of the state are glutted with university, community college, and technical college campuses and duplicate programs is merited9, particularly in northeast Louisiana. However, duplicate programs and a geographical glutting did not happen overnight, and it would seem appropriate that their undoing not happen overnight, either. Regional economic impact studies, such as the one sponsored by the University of Louisiana System10, show that these universities and colleges have a dramatic impact on the economies of the cities that support them and surrounding communities. Though Tucker insists that colleges and universities need to operate more efficiently (a fair point), it can also be easily contended that the state’s investment in them has a considerably high return, both in the education of young men and women who may potentially work in Louisiana, and through provision of many small business opportunities for the areas that serve the students, faculty, and staffs of those universities.

Game Theory – continued available jobs in the state needs to happen between now and 201612) can begin cancelling out the negative consequences. Playing fast and loose with higher education will have severe consequences, and our next moves should be carefully considered, or else there may be no winners at all. Post-Game Summary Though the Commission’s central claims appear reasoned, justifiable, and may ultimately be what is best for the state, it is crucial that every corrective action be considered carefully and dutifully – rapidity should not be a virtue. Simply replacing deleterious consequences with new deleterious consequences will not move the state forward. As a staunch believer that educational opportunity can elevate Louisiana’s political and economic importance in America, I conclude that it is crucial that the work of the Commission be a chess game rather than a game of Jenga! – one marked by strategic, measured, and purposeful moves that does not end in victory being celebrated atop a pile of ruins.

Dr. Broussard is Associate Athletic Director for External Relations and Assistant Professor of Journalism and Public Relations at Northwestern State University. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Arizona

Considering that $8 is returned on each $1 invested in ULS universities11, this is potentially a $952 million economic impact on the State of Louisiana. Such reductions (if they are made) should be phased in, strategically, so that the proposed benefits of the cuts (i.e. a reduction of the number of four-year college graduates to a number commensurate with 9

“Jindal: Reneau a guiding light,” Ruston Leader. http://www.rustonleader.com/news.php?id=5787 10

http://www.ulsystem.net/index.cfm?md=pagebuilder&tmp=ho me&pid=161. 11 According to calculations from figures found in the University of Louisiana’s “Economic and Community Impact Study,” http://www.ulsystem.net/assets/images/impact/uls_report_415 .pdf.

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“Four year college graduates a surplus in Louisiana.” http://www.nola.com/news/t-p/capital/index.ssf?/base/news7/1254201645251420.xml&coll=1.

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Reforming Education: The Pros and Cons of Merit Pay for Teachers By Ryan Mick, MEd, JD In the spring of 2009, President Barack Obama unveiled a plan that would add hundreds of millions of dollars for teacher merit pay programs, an investment in reform that has drawn both support and criticism from education policy experts.13 In sum, Obama seeks to add $517 million for performance pay grants, or five times the current federal funding for this type of program. Though Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is lauding the President’s effort as one that will “reward those teachers and those principals that are making a huge difference in students’ lives,” there is much controversy over teacher merit pay from both education researchers and teachers. Is merit pay an effective way to bolster student achievement and create more effective teachers? While the federal push for teacher merit pay has only just now found its footing, Louisiana schools started implementing merit pay programs as early as 2003, under TAP, the Teacher Advancement Program. TAP falls under the umbrella of the National Institute for Excellence in Teachers (NIET), which is committed to ensuring that highly skilled, strongly motivated teachers are competitively compensated in America’s classroom. While TAP has a number of professional development components, it is mostly known for its performance pay program, where teachers whose students make significant test score gains are rewarded with cash bonuses. For a school to join the TAP movement, its leadership must first apply and become a pre-TAP school. After the TAP program is introduced to the school, administrators and faculty must decide whether to continue with the program on a yearly basis until fully adopting the 13

Glod, Maria. “Budget Outlines Funding for Teacher Merit Pay Programs.” The Washington Post. May, 7, 2009.

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program. The process typically takes schools three years to move from Pre-TAP to TAP. Currently, 56 schools are involved in Louisiana’s TAP, 28 being PreTAP.14 But are performance pay programs in education like TAP effective? The concept of bonuses is nothing novel to the business world. Indeed, the idea of the end-of-year bonus has come to be expected in both the blue and white-collar worlds. However, some might argue education is a different animal, one where it is difficult to measure success and provide compensation based on that success. TAP disagrees with this notion, touting its program’s success in several Louisiana schools, both public and charter. Examples in Louisiana Schools One such school was Forest Hill Elementary, a rural Title I school in Rapides Parish, where 84% of students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.15 Forest Hill adopted TAP in fall of 2004 and the results were staggering. According to state LEAP fourth-grade test results, the number of Forest Hill students reaching basic and above in math proficiency grew from 73% to 90%, and from 76% to 85% in English/language arts.16 Similarly, Forest Hill’s School Performance Score, based on state assessments, increased from 105.2 to 114.7 after just one year of TAP, and by the end of the 2005-06 school year, jumped to 124.5—the largest growth in the entire parish.17

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For more information on TAP, visit http://www.tapsystem.org/ 15 Schools where at least 40 percent of the children in the school attendance area are from low-income families or at least 40 percent of the student enrollment are from low-income families are eligible to receive federal Title I funds. The proportion of low-income families is most frequently measured by the percent of students receiving free and reduced-price lunch. Title I funds are to be used for programs designed to improve the academic achievement of children from low-income homes. 16 The Louisiana Educational Assessment Program 17 K-12 public schools in Louisiana receive a school performance score (SPS) based primarily on how well each student performs on the state’s standardized tests (LEAP, iLEAP, and GEE), as well as on dropout rates and attendance. The sores range from 0.0 to either 236.4 or 266.7

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The Algiers Charter School Association (ACSA) has also experienced what it considers great success while implementing the TAP program.18 ACSA is a system of 9 charter schools that is open to students within New Orleans’ attendance boundaries without an admissions test. The ACSA currently serves about 5,100 students, most of whom live at or under the federal poverty level. After implementing TAP in their schools, ACSA students scored on average more than 22 percent higher than their neighboring peers in math and reading on high-stakes Louisiana standardized tests. How much did this success cost? Based on the significant value-added gains, as well as the other necessary criteria, about 200 Algiers teachers received performance awards in February 2009 totaling $400,000. The average bonus was $2,000, with some teachers receiving as much as $2,800. While Forest Hill and ACSA may sing the praises of performance pay as drivers of student success on standardized tests, education researchers are finding these results might not correlate to performance pay at all. Researchers at Texas A&M University, Vanderbilt University, and the University of Missouri studied the reading scores on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills for more than 140,000 students at schools participating in Texas’ merit pay program, the Texas Educator Excellence Grant (TEEG).19 Though Texas spent $300 million over three years on TEEG, researchers found that “there is no systematic evidence that TEEG had an impact on student achievement gains.” The TEEG plan, which provided incentive pay for teachers at about 1,000 campuses a year in lower-income neighborhoods, was discontinued by the Legislature after the 2008-09 school year because of design problems.

Merit Pay – continued Fairness Concerns Researchers are not the only voice on education that sings skeptical of merit pay for teachers. Education pundits have highlighted several problems with rewarding teachers based on student performance. Such problems include the fact that merit pay does not necessarily reward teachers who make contributions to a school in other ways outside or beyond test scores, that salary is not necessarily a motivational driver of teachers or would be teachers, and the unfairness of a system that rewards teachers based on the success of a student on one day of their life, not their long-term potential or educational achievement. A veteran teacher of the Los Angeles Unified School District encapsulated this point in a sarcastic think piece to the Huffington Post: “I'm confident that connecting teacher salaries to standardized scores will so excite students they'll turn off their Play Stations and Xboxes and begin to memorize their times tables; that's how much they're certain to want their teachers to receive that extra $1200 a year. The merit pay provision undoubtedly will make poor students with full-time jobs and little parental support more alert in class. It'll make their parents serve them healthier breakfast foods. It'll encourage parents to turn off ESPN and help their kids perfect their five-paragraph essays and give up drinking so they can pay for educational perks. Public school students, realizing they do have the power to move their teachers from a rented apartment into ownership of a condo, will wake at dawn on Saturday mornings and work a few Sudokus; then they'll likely rush to be first in line when the library doors open.”20

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For more information on ACSA, visit http://www.algierscharterschools.org 19 Stutz, Terrence. “Study: Texas’ teacher merit pay program hasn’t boosted student performance.” The Dallas Morning News. November 4, 2009.

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Danzinger, Dennis. “Demerit Pay.” The Huffington Post. November 7, 2009.

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The teacher’s point is valid and poignant. As a teacher of special education students, I teach children that battle with broken homes, come hungry to school, and have severe emotional and social problems. These 11-15 year old children arrive at school each day with these problems, only to fight daily battles with 1st grade literacy skills they have still not mastered along with other critical academic skills. The likelihood that an illiterate 15year-old 6th grade student in my special education reading class will be able to pass the high stakes LEAP reading test is almost non-existent. This is not to say I have given up on this child, but simply that the growth needed will take several years before the student is on par with age appropriate peers. In a merit pay system, it would likely be irrelevant that I was given a student that could not read; it would only matter if I could grow that student to pass the 8th grade LEAP Test. My peer teacher down the hall faces the exact opposite situation. She teachers 8th grade honors students using a 9th grade curriculum, with their high stakes test scores always exceeding the district averages. Is she to be financially rewarded for the success her students have that comes so natural to them that they are placed in honors curriculum? Conclusion Merit pay for teachers has its pros and cons. It is questionable whether merit pay has anything to do with student success, but it is always a positive thing when teachers are receiving more pay in a society that does not value teachers as professionals. It seems that Louisiana schools that implement teacher merit pay programs like TAP also swear by the results they bring. However, this may have more to do with TAP’s professional development components than the merit pay program. This fact may be the lesson that Louisiana policymakers should take from merit pay programs like TAP.

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Merit Pay – continued be used to address the problems children are facing in their home lives. As for education, if legislators believe in the importance of educators and education, they should pay all teachers more, and use other funds to create before-school and afterschool programs for young people to catch up for these high-stakes tests. Following the TAP model, teachers should also be given more time to collaborate and seek professional development, which I suspect to be the true drivers of student achievement. If the goal is for Louisiana students to succeed, there is no doubt that there needs to be an investment in our children. However, teacher merit pay may be the wrong solution to a problem everyone is trying to solve.

Ryan is a Highly Qualified Teacher in New Orleans as part of the New Teacher Project. He is a graduate of the George Washington University Law School and the Ohio University. For more on merit pay and teaching initiatives, see these resources: Louisiana’s Teacher Advancement Program (http://is.gd/58avW) The New Teacher Project (www.tntp.org) www.teachlouisiana.net US Dept of Education (www.ed.gov)

Instead of merit pay programs, what the Obama administration and Louisiana schools should be looking at are the root causes of student failure and teacher turnover. Federal and state money should

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SPECIAL REPORT The Career Diploma: A Reform Failure By Joshua Stockley, PhD Introduction Louisiana has some of the lowest high school graduation rates in the nation, and its dropout rates are among the highest in the nation. The graduation rate is defined by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) as the percentage of students who have completed high school within four years of their first entry into ninth grade, excluding high school equivalency completers (i.e. GED).21 The latest figures from the NCES showed Louisiana’s 2006 graduation rate declined to 59.8 percent; only Nevada, at 55.8 percent, graduated a lower percentage of its high school students. For Louisiana, this was a substantial decrease from the 64 percent graduation rate in 2005. The Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) reports that Southern states showed graduation gains between 2002 and 2007, a big reversal from earlier in the decade when these rates declined. Tennessee's rate rose by nine percentage points, Kentucky’s by five percentage points, and Georgia’s by three percentage points. In this same period, Louisiana’s graduation rate declined three percentage points, falling to the second lowest of all southern states. The national graduation rate average for 2007 was 74 percent, while the Southern regional average was 72 percent.22 The South has caught up with the national average, but Louisiana has not. One in three high school students in Louisiana fails to graduate on time compared to one in four nationally; Louisiana is one of only 11 states that graduates less than 70 percent.

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“High School Dropout and Completion Rates in the United States: 2007,” National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department f Education, September, 2009. 22 “Gaining Ground on High School Graduation Rates in SREB States: Milestones and Guideposts,” Southern Regional Education Board, November 2009.

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In fairness, the NCES excludes students who left the state and graduated on time in another state. Therefore, the 2005-2006 graduation rates do not take into account students driven from Louisiana because of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, even if they enrolled and graduated on time in another state. Louisiana’s Department of Education disputes the NCES graduation rate, countering that the adjusted graduation rate for Louisiana was closer to 64.8 percent for 2006. The Department of Education also reports the graduation rate was 65.9 percent in 2007 and 66.6 percent in 2008.23 Louisiana’s self-reported graduation rate has increased from 61.3 percent in 2001. Nevertheless, this graduation rate still falls well below regional and national averages. A second measure is the dropout rate. The NCES defines dropouts as all students who were enrolled at some time during the previous school year, were not enrolled at the beginning of the current school year, have not graduated from high school or completed a state- or district-approved education program, and do not meet any of the following exclusionary conditions: transferred to another public school district, private school, or state- or district-approved education program, temporary absence due to suspension or school-approved education program, or death. According to the NCES, Arizona had the highest annual dropout percentage at 7.6 percent, followed by Louisiana and Michigan at 7.4 percent.24 Another available measure is the number of dropout factories in a state. A dropout factory is defined as any school where at least 40 percent of 9th graders fail to reach the 12th grade in three years.25 According to the National Governors Association 23

“Department Addresses SREB Graduation Report,” Louisiana Department of Education Press Release, October 19, 2009; “Student, School and District Gains Result in All-Time Highest State Performance Score,” Louisiana Department of Education Press Release, October 13, 2009. 24 “High School Dropout and Completion Rates in the United States: 2007”. 25 Daniel Princiotta and Ryan Reyna, “Achieving Graduation for All: A Governor’s Guide to Dropout Prevention and Recovery,” 2009, National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, 2009.

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(NGA), for the classes of 2000, 2001, and 2002, 78 schools, or 26 percent of Louisiana’s high schools, met the definition of a dropout factory. Based on a three year average for the classes of 2005, 2006, and 2007, there were only 45 dropout factories in Louisiana (15.7 percent). The number of dropout factories has declined, but Louisiana still has the 13th largest percentage of dropout factories nationally. The dropout rate, graduation rate, and number of dropout factories are significant problems in Louisiana. In response, two Louisiana legislators, State Senator Robert ‘Bob’ Kostelka (R-Monroe) and State Representative James ‘Jim’ Fannin (DJonesboro), introduced legislation during the 2009 legislative session creating a Career Pathway Diploma (also known as the career diploma) focused on career, not college, preparation. Sen. Kostelka and Rep. Fannin argued that a substantial reason for Louisiana’s high dropout rate is the inability of high schools to provide courses with any relevance for students unlikely to attend college. The career diploma would result in greater retention of at-risk students by preparing them for non-college careers, technical training, or community college. Opponents concede the career diploma will likely make it easier for at-risk students to pass courses and be less likely to dropout, but it does so by weakening the overall quality of education in the State by creating dummy diplomas. Critics argue that the curriculum for the career diploma is not rigorous enough to meet federal and state standards and shortchanges students in the long run because projections indicate a larger number of future jobs will require college degrees. Critics also contend career programs are already in place and the new career diploma deprives schools of the resources that could be used to strengthen existing programs. In some ways, the career diploma acts as an unfunded state mandate depriving districts of local control of their curriculum.

Career Diploma – continued K-12 public education circles over the last several decades, and for good reason. The first is that many young people simply will not go to college, and for a variety of reasons–academic failure, disinterest in school, problematic behavior, life events, ability, and temperament. The second is that many jobs, including some good paying jobs, do not require a college degree. This is particularly evident in South Louisiana, where the offshore industry and the shipbuilding/fabrication industry have become financially lucrative, but do not require college degrees for many positions. For these people, career and technical education (CTE) is perceived to be the most suitable route to employment. CTE is a curriculum aimed at identifying the most vulnerable students, those most at-risk of dropping out of high school or unlikely to attend college and placing them in courses designed to keep them in school and teach vocational skills in order to increase their employability. Several CTE programs have been linked to reducing dropout rates and increasing graduation rates in several areas.26 Not everyone agrees. Critics of CTE feel it artificially discourages segments of the population from going to college and, because the degree credentials are often below minimum college entrance standards, it prohibits individuals from changing their minds and later applying for college. Critics also argue CTE tracks begin early in a student’s career, meaning that many students may never fully realize their potential because they are being placed in courses designed to instill minimum skills. The earnings of young adults with a bachelor’s degree have increased greatly relative to those with only a high school diploma or its equivalent. Therefore, students entering CTE programs are limiting their economic potential. Finally, opponents cite the fact that many CTE programs have become a dumping ground for less

Career & Technical Education (CTE) The idea that high schools should increasingly focus on preparing people for careers has been popular in

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The National Research Center for Career and Technical Education (NRCCTE) at http://136.165.122.102/mambo/.

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able students and, as a result, are not reducing dropout rates or enhancing career prospects.27 Louisiana’s career diploma is the latest chapter in an educational debate between proponents and opponents of CTE and a larger public policy debate regarding how to improve the State’s poor graduation and dropout rates. The Career Diploma

Career Diploma – continued Superintendent Pastorek agreed the amendments strengthened the career diploma, but remained opposed to the program. He would go on record saying, "It's a dead end, just to get a GED or high school diploma. They need more because 75 percent of jobs require at least some post-secondary education.”29 Supporting Paul Pastorek was the Council for a Better Louisiana (CABL) and individual educators and superintendents around the State.

The career diploma was introduced in identical bills by Rep. Fannin as House Bill (H.B.) 612 and Sen. Louisiana law already stipulated high schools had to Kostelka as Senate Bill (S.B.) 259. Originally, both offer an academic major (college preparatory bills mandated the creation of a Career Pathway courses) and a career major (academic Diploma under the administration of the courses and vocational studies). State Board of Elementary and Students completing either of Secondary Education (BESE), with these two tracks are a minimum curriculum “Louisiana’s career diploma is awarded a regular high requirement of four English school diploma. The an educational debate credits, three math credits, career diploma amends two social studies credits, between proponents and this policy by requiring and two science credits. BESE to develop a opponents of career and This 4-3-2-2 curriculum second career major, technical education and a was substantially weaker but students than the core credit completing this track larger public policy debate curriculum for a regular are awarded a career regarding how to improve the diploma, which requires diploma required to be four English, four math, state’s poor graduation and recognized by three social studies, and institutions under the dropout rates.” three science credits (4-4-3-3). supervision of the Board of Early whip counts suggested a 4Supervisors of the Louisiana 3-2-2 curriculum would have Community and Technical difficulty passing both chambers and College System (LCTCS). State Superintendent Paul Pastorek publicly blasted the plan saying it would “put ‘dummy The problem is the career diploma in many ways diplomas’ in the hands of too many students."28 As a duplicates existing options, deviating by offering result, both bills were amended to the 4-4-3-3 credit graduates a certificate of completion under the guise requirement in the Senate Committee on Education of a diploma. Louisiana’s career diploma is not and the House Committee on Education. assured recognition by out-of-state community colleges and does not meet the minimum requirements of four-year institutions. Even if the career diploma were recognized, students’ heavy reliance upon applied courses in English and math 27 Douglas J. Besharov and Marie Cohen, “The Role of Career and Technical Education: Implications for Federal Policy,” American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, May 2004. 28 http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/high-schoolconnections/2009/06/louisiana_advances_careerpathw.html

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29

Mike Hasten, “Senate panel approves career education path,” The Town Talk, May 8, 2009.

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would place career diploma graduates at an academic disadvantage. The career diploma requires students in the 8th grade to devise a "Five-Year Individual Graduation Plan", replacing the presently named "Five-Year Educational Plan". At this point students can enter the career pathway, but only after acquiring written permission of a parent or legal guardian after consultation with a guidance counselor or school administrator. The problems here are numerous. First, this process duplicates existing educational requirements mandating that 8th graders devise educational plans. Second, students are being asked to make a major curriculum decision at an early age. Is it reasonable to expect 8th graders to know whether or not they want to go to college? Third, students may never realize their potential because they were placed in courses designed to instill minimum skills. The career diploma prevents the discovery of late bloomers. Fourth, students choosing to exit the career diploma could delay their graduation by a semester or more because they would have to make up any of the courses required by a regular diploma. These students would fall into NCES’ non-graduation category. Fifth, statistics show most dropouts in Louisiana occur between the 9th and 10th grade; however, the career diploma asks students to make decisions in the 8th grade. The Five-Year Individual Graduation Plan could be replaced by a Three-Year Individual Graduation Plan made in the second semester of the 9th grade year, more effectively capturing at-risk students and avoiding the inclusion of students who are not at-risk. What is the rush for requiring this decision in the 8th grade? Louisiana law previously required 9th and 10th grade students to pursue a core curriculum developed by their school; however, the career diploma gives curriculum power for these grades to BESE. Previously, district curriculum design teams and school curriculum design teams had full discretion over curricula within BESE and federal guidelines. The career diploma legislation gives all curriculum

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Career Diploma – continued authority to BESE throughout high school and mandates that career diploma curriculums must be approved by BESE. This legislation decreases local autonomy and district curriculum discretion. Louisiana law allows students to change from one major to another at the end of any school year, and the career diploma retains this provision. Students are allowed to move from a regular pathway to the career pathway, or vice versa, at any time. Realistically, few students, if any, will exit the career pathway for the regular pathway because of the credits that would have to be made up as required by the regular diploma. Under threat of delayed graduation and more courses, students enrolling in the career diploma are trapped. The career diploma legislation amended the requirements for promotion to the 9th grade. Previously, students had to pass the Louisiana Educational Assessment Program (LEAP) test to be promoted to the 9th grade; however, students are now allowed to automatically move on to the 9th grade if they are 15 years of age or have scores approaching basic on either the English or math component of the LEAP test. Students progressing to the 9th grade without passing LEAP scores will be required to enroll in the career major pathway. Students moving on to the 9th grade with unsatisfactory scores have to complete summer remediation. Alas, the career diploma legislation allows them to progress even if they fail to pass summer remediation. If a student fails remediation, then they are enrolled in developmental courses. Students entering the career pathway are allowed to fail the LEAP test, remediation courses, and developmental courses. They will still be eligible to graduate as long as they maintain 1.5 grade point average (on a 4.0 scale), maintain acceptable attendance, maintain acceptable behavior, and attend dropout prevention and mentoring programs. The career diploma is a certificate of perseverance more than a diploma.

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Finally, the legislation requires the Department of Education to collect data relative to the implementation of the career diploma program regarding the number of students, age, gender, ethnicity, scores on the 8th grade LEAP exam, and academic progress. The Department of Education will have to report these findings by January 15, 2013, to the House Committee on Education and the Senate Committee on Education.30 H.B. 612 and S.B. 259 were endorsed by Governor Jindal, the Louisiana Federation of Teachers (LFT), Louisiana Association of Educators (LAE), and the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents (LASS). The bills passed their respective committees unanimously. H.B. 612 passed the floor of the House 93-5, the floor of the Senate 38-0, and the floor of the House again 94-0; S.B. 259 passed the floor of the Senate 36-0 and the floor of the House 87-10. Passage came with little debate and minimal resistance. Governor Jindal signed the Career Pathway Diploma into law on July 2, 2009, saying the career diploma catches students falling between the cracks of current programs without sacrificing the quality of education in Louisiana.31 Sen. Kostelka said, “They don’t see any relevance in reading Beowulf and Chaucer and trigonometry. As they enter high school, many are finding less and less relevance to the normal college-prep curriculum and [want] technical training. It’s really not lowering standards; it's just another pathway ... for those that can't go the harder, more rigorous path."32 Rep. Fannin concurred with his colleague, adding that the bill lowers dropout rates by easing standardized testing requirements thereby allowing poorly performing students to follow a curriculum aimed at training them for work in industry. LASS president Gary Jones said, "The goal of public education is to 30

House Bill 612 and Senate Bill 259 can be found at: http://www.legis.state.la.us/. 31 Jan Moller, “Jindal Signs Alternate Diploma Bills,” TimesPicayune, July 2, 2009. 32

http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/curriculum/2009/07/louisiana s-new-graduation-mand.html

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Career Diploma – continued produce useful and productive citizens and this legislation will be a great tool to accomplish that mission.”33 Not everybody responded positively. Michael Cohen, president of Achieve Inc., a Washingtonbased education-reform coalition, saw the career diploma as a less demanding pathway for a diploma in a state he recently cited as being a leader in rigorous curriculum. Cohen said, “What Louisiana has done is take a step backwards.” CABL, an issuesoriented government watchdog organization, argued the law could create new standards that are so low that students who opt for the career diploma would not be eligible for TOPS scholarships. CABL wrote in a letter to Jindal, "Lowering standards will not speed our educational progress. Instead, we fear it will tempt students and parents to take the easy way out when we should be challenging our kids to learn more.”34 The Campaign for High School Equity, a project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, issued a press release critical of the diploma, saying the career diploma “is a disservice to the state’s students.” CHSE argued lower academic standards simply to increase graduation rates would disproportionately affect low-income and minority students. Likewise, Recovery School District Superintendent Paul Vallas said, “This would create a secondary enrollment track, a lesser track, the track of lower expectations, and I just think that’s criminal. There’s nothing more racist than the racism of low expectations.” Capital One-University of New Orleans Charter Network CEO Andre Perry called it a short-sighted attempt that provides an excuse to avoid responsibility for high dropout rates. Morty Branigan, apprenticeship director for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union 130, said, “Typically, people believe that the construction industry is a career choice for slow 33

“Governor Jindal Signs Career Diploma Legislation,” Office of the Governor, July 2, 2009. 34 Jindal Signs Alternate Diploma Bills.

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learners, and that’s absolutely not the case. Our industry is becoming more and more technical every day. My biggest concern with this career path diploma is that the graduation requirements are going to be watered down to the point where many of them would not meet our minimum qualifications.”35

Career Diploma – continued certificate, a marketable skill, and work experience. The JAG program has produced positive results, with 90 percent of the at-risk, in-school students graduating with a diploma, 94 percent being placed in a full-time job, and more than 50 percent of students receiving a GED.36

The Implementation Problem This legislation may well face implementation obstacles, as well. The career pathway legislation gave oversight power to the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) and stipulated, “any such school system may be granted a waiver from this requirement by the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education for good cause.” Since the passage of the Career Pathway Diploma, BESE has voted to delay final approval of some of the rules governing the career diploma and has granted waivers to 39 school districts allowing them to opt out of the career diploma program for the 20092010 academic year. Rep. Fannin and Sen. Kostelka criticized BESE for delaying the rules and not moving quickly enough to get the diploma going. They believe that Pastorek is intentionally undermining the diploma because he was opposed. Pastorek argues that districts simply need more time to prepare for the career diploma and BESE needs time to insure that any requirements do not conflict with existing federal and state mandates. Duplication The career diploma duplicates several other programs: Jobs for America’s Graduates, Educational Mission to Prepare Louisiana’s Youth, Instructional Interventionists, Credit and Grade Recovery, Response Intervention, and Eagle. Forty Louisiana schools participate in a pilot program known as Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG). Students participating in the JAG program are mentored toward earning a diploma, a work-ready skills 35

Deon Roberts, “Some Give Career Diploma Failing Grade,” New Orleans CityBusiness, July 8, 2009.

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Fourteen school districts – Ascension, Assumption, Avoyelles, Bossier, Caddo, Calcasieu, Iberia, Jefferson, Ouachita, Rapides, St. Tammany, Terrebonne, Vermilion and Winn Parish– participate in Educational Mission to Prepare Louisiana’s Youth (EMPLoY).37 The EMPLoY program consists of five components: basic skills training toward a GED, soft skills training for a Work-Ready Certificate, dual enrollment in Technical College and/or Industry Based Certification training, participation in workbased learning (paid work experience), and collaboration with an adult mentor. Approximately 525 at-risk students participate in the EMPLoY program and another 1,200 students are using EMPLoY literacy software. It too has shown positive results. Districts also have Instructional Interventionists, individuals who work with students to develop testalignment strategies and supervise labs where students practice taking math and language skills exams. Instructional Interventionists are not dropout prevention strategists, rather they focus on assisting students at a greater risk for failing exit exams required to graduate. Students who opt for the career diploma track will still be required to pass exit exams before being awarded a diploma because the career diploma does not eliminate exit requirements. Districts are utilizing Credit and Grade Recovery Programs, like PLATO. PLATO provides web-based instruction for students who have failed core courses required for graduation. Students take online 36

“Department Outlines Overhaul of Option Program,” Louisiana Department of Education Press Release, January 1, 2009. 37 Katrina Donica, “Rapides Parish school programs focus on dropout prevention,” The Town Talk, November 10, 2009.

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lessons with the assistance of a core teacher. Eagle is also a computer program that offers online tests for each core area. Educators adjust the test content to address the specific weaknesses of particular students. This program is often used to prepare students for high stakes exit exams. Response Intervention (RTI) is a program designed to identify at-risk students, to develop learning strategies on a case-by-case basis, and to implement these strategies under the direction of the district according to the services available in each district for each student. PLATO, Eagle, and RTI are case-bycase strategies to deal with individual courses and individual exams. The problem with Instructional Intervention and RTI is that districts often lack the personnel and financial resources to effectively administer these programs. This also limits the possible number of students that can be reached by these programs. Rather than create new programs, the State should focus on improving existing programs. Individually these programs do not specifically address dropout prevention; however, collectively they identify at-risk students, develop strategies, and provide tools to assist at-risk students pass core courses and exams. A recent report by National Governors Association cited Louisiana’s programs as among the country’s best practices, specifically citing the Credit and Grade Recovery Program and the Recovery School District. The NGA concluded that the Credit and Grade Recovery Program and the Recovery School District were responsible for the reduction of dropout factories in Louisiana.38 Evidence suggests Louisiana’s existing programs are working. The career diploma is a duplicative resource competing with existing programs. Many districts are not adequately staffed to assure the effective delivery of EMPLoY, JAG, Eagle, RTI, PLATO, and Instructional Intervention. How can these districts be expected to administer a career diploma? The effectiveness of these programs could be 38

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Career Diploma – continued undermined as personnel and finances are diverted to the career diploma. As such, the career diploma acts as an unfunded mandate and deprives districts of programmatic flexibility.

“The career diploma is a duplicative resource competing with existing programs…acts as an unfunded mandate and deprives districts of programmatic flexibility…[and] could cost Louisiana millions of dollars…by jeopardiz[ing] Louisiana’s chances of winning a Race to the Top Grant.”

Race to the Top The career diploma could cost Louisiana millions of dollars. The Obama Administration’s stimulus package contains a $4.35 billion program known as Race to the Top, a competitive grant designed to reward states that have taken proactive, aggressive, and innovative steps to improve K-12 education. States who want Race to the Top funds must close historic achievement gaps, increase the number of students entering college, incorporate strong academic standards, use data effectively to improve schools, have programs to improve teacher and principal quality, and have a mechanism for turning around struggling schools. The New Teacher Project, a nonprofit that works toward education reform, handicapped each of the 50 state's chances and concluded that Florida and Louisiana were “highly competitive."

“Achieving Graduation for All”.

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Even so, Superintendent Pastorek recently stated his concern that the career diploma may jeopardize Louisiana’s chances of winning a Race to the Top Grant.39 That would mean a loss of $40 million for a data management system, principals training institute, and assistance for 130 struggling schools.40 State publications –The Advocate, Times-Picayune, Daily Town Talk, Gambit Weekly, The Independent Weekly, Baton Rouge Business Report– and national publications –Time, Wall Street Journal, Christian Science Monitor, and Education Week–have all opined on the importance of Race to the Top Funds for education funding in Louisiana.41 A duplicative dropout prevention program with weaker standards and an emphasis upon careers contradicts the competitive benchmarks of Race to the Top Funds, costing the state millions of dollars for a state staring at several years of possible budget shortfalls. The Exit Exam Dilemma Louisiana is about to replace its high school exit exam. Under existing rules, high school students have to pass the Graduation Exit Exam (GEE) and meet core course requirements to earn a high school diploma; however, the GEE will be replaced by more stringent end-of-course tests. The new proposal will demand that students earn passing marks on three end-of-course tests out of six subjects from Algebra I or geometry, English II or English III, and Biology or American history. In a field test conducted during the 2008-2009 academic year, 34 percent of students who took the Algebra I test fell into the “needs improvement” category and 24 percent failed to master the fundamentals of English II. More alarming is the presence of an achievement gap; 46 percent of black students failed the Algebra I end-of-course test compared to 24 percent of white students; 36 39

http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/high-schoolconnections/2009/09/las_career_track_diploma_threa.html. 40 Robert Travis Scott, “Recovery School District would not be focus of Race to the Top federal grant, Pastorek says,” TimesPicayune, November 5, 2009. 41 “What Others are Saying about Race to the Top,” Louisiana Department of Education Press Release, October 30, 2009.

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Career Diploma – continued percent of black students failed the English II end-ofcourse test compared to 16 percent of white students. The High School Redesign Committee overwhelmingly passed a recommendation to BESE that students pursuing the career diploma pass the same exit exam as other students and that the passage of this test is required for graduation. Students enrolled in the career diploma will be at an academic disadvantage and, concomitantly, run a substantial risk of failing these end-of-course exams. Conclusions The U.S. Department of Labor believes that 85 percent of the jobs available to college and high school graduates now entering the workforce require some type of education beyond high school.42 In considering the needs of business and industry, it becomes obvious that education is not only vital to the economic prosperity of this country, but offers students the chance to gain vital skills and strong academic preparation. CTE, designed properly, has its place in K-12 education; however, the career diploma, as presently constructed, is not properly designed. The career diploma will keep some students in school. It offers an alternative course track with technical and vocation studies for job skills after high school; this will undoubtedly lower the dropout rate. For some students, this is a viable option. For many, the career diploma will impair their future. The career diploma threatens to segregate our students academically, giving students less achievement under the guise of more professional opportunities. Louisiana is lowering educational standards by allowing students to be promoted to high school by failing the English or math section of LEAP. This makes it easier to slide through high school without learning to read, to write, or to 42

“Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections,” U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, June 3, 2004.

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perform basic math. It will produce illiterate students. The career diploma imposes an unfunded mandate upon local education agencies, threatening to cut off much needed resources to presently successful graduation and dropout prevention programs. The career diploma threatens to segregate our students along racial, gender, and economic lines because Louisiana has racial, gender, and economic achievement gaps. All students should start high school with the same opportunities to advance to higher education, but asking an 8th grade student to make life altering decisions is placing too much responsibility on a 13 year old. It puts these students at a disadvantage. Many students will try to take the easy way out without applying and realizing their capabilities. If they realize they can and want to apply to a college, then they will tragically discover they do not have the required courses to enter college or to receive TOPS scholarships. The career diploma sends the wrong signal to our students and to the rest of the nation.

Dr. Stockley is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Louisiana at Monroe, a regular columnist for the Monroe News Star, and co-host of the weekly radio talk show, Political Incorrectness. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Oklahoma.

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Louisiana Progress Journal December 2009, v1.2 Edited by Greg Granger, PhD Genevieve Pope, JD Matt Bailey, JD, Founder

Interested in‌ - Submitting an article? - Subscribing to future journals and reports? - Supporting LPI? - Printing copies? We would like to hear from you. Contact us at www.laprogress.org.

WANTED: Press/Media Fellow Gain experience in press relations, social media, website & blog management, and communications strategy. Email resume and letter of interest to info@laprogress.org

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MEDIA SPOTLIGHT

Stay Brady Stay The documentary film "Stay Brady Stay" was written and directed by John W. Sutherlin, PhD, Co-Director of the University of Louisiana at Monroe Social Science Research Laboratory. The film was produced by Drs. Joseph McGahan (also Co-Director of the SSRL) and Sutherlin along with graduate student Brady Holtzclaw. Support for this project came from the University of Louisiana System and this material is based upon work supported by the Corporation for National and Community Service under Learn and Serve America Grant No. 07LH074083. Opinions or points of view expressed in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the Corporation or the Learn and Serve America Program. This film documents the issue of Louisiana's 'brain drain' or loss of intellectual capital. Every year, thousands of young people (often college graduates) leave the state in search of job opportunities or a quality of life they feel are not available in Louisiana. Brady Middleton is the focal point of the 26-minute film that details his last year in college before he has to make a decision on whether to stay or go. Additionally, interviews are conducted with students from across Louisiana about issues impacting their decision-making. Sutherlin contrasts life and issues in Louisiana with cities around the US known for having a high quality of life and are often the destination for so many young people. Issues such as poverty, joblessness, economic development, workforce training, racism, and litter are discussed in the interviews with Brady and other students.

One of the most striking features of the film is the honesty in which these students discuss the issues that are important to them. Often times, they appear frustrated and confused about the future. The film is not an attempt to lay blame on politicians or community leaders. Instead, this film details concerns and analyzes alternatives for what a better future could be. According to Dr. Sutherlin, "I used techniques that I have seen employed by other directors, both documentary and feature films, such as Errol Morse or Sidney Lumet, trying to portray real people facing real issues under extreme pressures. Often, I found that I had to get out of the way of the students and just let their voices be heard to make this film work. There is a fragile line between realism and naturalism. I think this film is a natural expression of what young people want." "Stay Brady Stay" is unique in the sense that students worked with Dr. Sutherlin on narration, music, graphics, filming, and photography. Dr. Joshua Stockley, an assistant professor of political science, worked with many students in conducting focus groups. Wild Hare Productions, a New Orleans based post-production and editing company, assisted with all final editing with Dr. Sutherlin. This film has been distributed to more than 30 states and airs on Louisiana Public Broadcasting beginning January 2010. (Courtesy of Dr. John W. Sutherlin. For more information, visit www.ulm.edu/ssrl)

Disclaimer The views represented in the Louisiana Progress Journal are those of the respective authors only. None of the opinions, comments, or analysis by any author is necessarily attributable to any other author or the editors. For more information, visit our website at www.laprogress.org or email info@laprogress.org. Thanks!

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Thanks for reading the Louisiana Progress Journal. After the first edition was released, a few folks said that they wanted to share it but were unsure of what was okay and what was not. So, here’s the answer: it’s all okay!

We have begun planning the next edition of the Louisiana Progress Journal, which we aim to release shortly before the next session of the Louisiana Legislature convenes in the spring. Version 1.3 will be our first BIG IDEAS edition, with a collection of timely and targeted policy proposals designed for immediate consideration in Baton Rouge.

We want you to read it, print it, pass it around, fax it to a colleague, distribute it at your next meeting, e-mail it to all of your friends, link to it on your website and share the link on Facebook and other social media applications. Any and everything that involves further dissemination of this Journal is just fine by us. Indeed, we hope you will spread the word and help us create a buzz. This journal is just the first step of a new initiative to promote more progressive policies here in Louisiana, the state we love. All writing and editing was done on a voluntary basis. Accordingly, we will disseminate the journal and the ideas herein via online and personal sharing. If you are interested in printing copies or helping us to pay for printing, please use the contact information found on the cover page to let us know.

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We hope to compile ideas and writings for our next edition from an even wider range of interested individuals. If you are interested in submitting an article, please visit our website at www.laprogress.org and use the Contact form to send us a brief message. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

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Louisiana Progress Journal v1.2  

The second edition of the quarterly progressive policy journal

Louisiana Progress Journal v1.2  

The second edition of the quarterly progressive policy journal

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