Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:
The Advocate on measuring academic setbacks caused by the pandemic:
Right up there with “quiz” as a four-letter word if you’re a school kid, “test” is just as much a guarantee of a reaction among teachers and policymakers in public education.
We need tests, now more than ever.
It’s good news that Louisiana public school students will resume their traditional standardized tests in math, science, English and social studies in the spring.
Those were canceled a year ago because of the coronavirus pandemic, reasonably enough. But what has been the impact of the chaotic year since? While on the upside school children have not been devastated by the disease compared to their elders, there is no question that learning has suffered.
National studies have pointed this out, over and over again. The rule of thumb is that half a year of learning was lost.
That is a profound impact on a young child’s life. And without a commitment to tests, how do we know what the impact of coronavirus has been among Louisiana schoolchildren?
“We think it is really important that students test because we haven’t tested in two years,” Education Superintendent Cade Brumley said. “We need to know where our kids are, and that is important because it will drive instructional decisions and will also drive resource allocation decisions.”
With the backing of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, testing will resume, but there remains a drumbeat against high stakes for the tests.
Remember the four-letter word? For critics of the state’s long-term program of school accountability, it is never to be uttered precisely because tests have consequences.
Because of circumstances beyond the control of anyone, there has been that pause in testing, but there is more to it than that. Opponents of accountability in public education — they see testing as persecution of teachers and students — have won huge victories in the past year.
A 2020 state law bans the use of test results to help evaluate teachers and also prohibits officials from using scores to determine whether fourth- and eighth-graders move to the next grades. A second measure from the same session gives the state education board the authority to make allowances on school and district scores “as the board deems necessary and appropriate.”
The law also directs the board to seek a federal waiver to shelve letter grades this year if issuing the marks would be “detrimental” to the state.
Any honest assessment of Louisiana’s education status can be construed as “detrimental,” because so many of our children are behind — and were before the pandemic. The impact of the latter has got to be at least as significant, if not more so, than in other states, because so many of our children did not have reliable access to the internet for remote learning.
That’s why tests are essential, but we argue that it is also vital to see what schools and what systems responded more effectively to these undoubtedly challenging circumstances.
We need testing as much for accountability this year as we need it to assess individual students’ situations, and what interventions are needed.
The Advocate on Drew Brees announcing his retirement from the New Orleans Saints:
That’s what everyone calls him. Not Drew Brees, although it’s hardly a mouthful, or Brees, according to the custom of referring to athletes by their last names. Just Drew. Like he’s someone we all know, even the vast majority of us who’ve never met him.
To an extraordinary extent, we do know him, because he shared with us not only his stellar skills and deep drive, but his heart, and his struggles. Fresh off a 2005 devastating shoulder injury that brought his time with the San Diego Chargers to a close, Brees came to a city broken by Hurricane Katrina to play in a stadium that had been ripped open by nature and made a symbol of despair by human ineptitude. Rather than being put off by the devastation, he felt a visceral kinship, rolled up his sleeves, and like everyone around him, got down to work.
What happened next, a spectacular 15-year run that ends with Brees’ retirement from the Saints, is much bigger than sports. It’s the tale of a quarterback and a community making a truly profound bond. Like New Orleans, Brees knew what it was to be dismissed as too small to be big league, too badly damaged to get another chance. He also knew what it was to hope and believe, and to prove the naysayers wrong.
Drew Brees played with serious foot, shoulder injuries for Saints in 2020, Brittany Brees says
When he rose to the highest heights, he took us there with him, through the emotional Monday Night Football reopening of the Superdome, to the exhilarating Super Bowl win 11 years ago, to a series of smashed individual career records more recently. There were epic disappointments, too, bad calls and game-ending blunders and missed chances for another shot at a ring. During his final playoff appearance against division rival Tampa Bay, Brees could no longer will his battered 42-year-old body to greatness. He is, after all, human.
And that’s really at the heart of the remarkable connection. Brees enjoyed the trappings of elite stardom, but he and his wife Brittany embraced their adopted community, and gave generously to it. He led by example, and on the rare occasions when his words landed wrong, he vowed to do better. If he ever pined for the greener pastures of a larger market, he never let on.
Brees didn’t get the full-throated tribute he deserved after his final game due to COVID-19; the Superdome faithful will surely get their chance once the pandemic is over.
Still, after the loss to the Bucs, he left fans with a parting image that encapsulated his tenure: Drew and Brittany playing with their four kids on an empty field in a quiet stadium, visiting briefly with victorious QB Tom Brady (who is somehow still going), taking his time and soaking it all in. There was no visible sadness on his face, just appreciation for all had happened, and everything it had meant.
To him. And to the fans who were lucky enough to accompany him on this unforgettable journey.