I am deeply concerned about our Lafayette Parish School System, where we are and, more importantly, where we are headed. In 2001, we campaigned for a teacher raise. Using our scores on the Iowa, the LEAP, the GEE and the ACT, we ranked 10th in the state. Everyone who worked on getting voters to approve that raise used those numbers.

Now the state ranks districts using a program that has been called the seventh best in the country by The Princeton Review and the fourth best in the nation by Education Week. When state rankings were first issued, Lafayette ranked 18th. Last year, we were 20th. This year, we rank 22nd. But our overall rank is not the worst of the news. We rank 30th in the state in the education of minority students. In the "performance gap" between black and white students, we rank 61st out of 68 districts. However, we did even worse when it comes to the education of "at-risk" students, 34th last year and 35th this year, indicating, yet again, that poverty is more of an issue than race.

The Chamber of Commerce brought in an expert in December 2004 who told us exactly what to do if we were serious about "improving" student performance, especially for our lowest performing kids, and it involved lowering class sizes. Since then, we have done exactly the opposite. By the way, the staff's presentation also attempts to establish that we have "small" classes. In fact, their presentation claims that "56.3% of our classes have 20 or less students."  For these numbers to be accurate, they can only be talking about percentages or ratios, which the Chamber's expert specifically said we must not do.

According to all the research and the expert the Chamber brought in, a "small" class is between 13 and 17 students. We do not have "small" classes in Lafayette, not even close. Anyone who doubts that need only ask a teacher. In fact, we have not lowered class sizes in the critical grades of K-3 since 1998, and as our class sizes have gone up, our state rankings have continued to go down.

If we do not do something about this now, we will end up with more schools in the same situation as N. P. Moss. This is one board member who is prepared to hold someone accountable.

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