LOUISIANA’S long-serving state education chief, John White, a hard-charging education reform evangelist who helped produce to an agenda of tougher standards, new ways to organize , evaluate and pay teachers, and faculty choice policies that included both charter schools and personal school vouchers, is resigning.
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White notified the state’s board of education Wednesday that he will vacate his position March 11, after serving within the role for the last eight years.
“Continuity may be a rare thing in education due to the way it’s governed politically,” White, whose long tenure has withstood changing political winds, says in an interview with U.S. News.
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“It should not be understated how hard it’s for people to face up to brazen and clearly politically motivated maneuvering and say, ‘I’m getting to put my reputation and position on the road ,'” he says. “I think that there are times that it’s extremely obvious that what’s happening is political. But it’s more of a day-to-day thing, and that is what good public servants and public officials do. They persist with what they believe is that the right thing to try to to and that they run through the thicket of politics.”
The state chief position in Louisiana is an appointed position, not an elected position. As Gov. John Bel Edwards begins a second term, White’s decision, he says, is more out of respect for a changing state board of education than anything .
“I could do that job and still feel that I’m making a difference and enjoying every minute of it for an additional eight years,” he says. “But there are other ways of creating an impression , and i am curious about pursuing those.”
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Though he has no set plans, White says he will likely land during a job that permits him to continue performing on the connection between education and therefore the workforce and education and upward mobility.
White leaves his perch with an inventory of important achievements.
Louisiana boasted a graduation rate of 81% in 2018, graduating more students than ever before and up from 72% in 2012, the year White was appointed – a rise that translates to about 5,000 students. More students also enrolled in college in 2018 than ever before, with quite 25,000 pursuing a postsecondary education.
Also since 2012, the amount of scholars earning Advanced Placement credits increased by quite 3,800, or 167%, consistent with state records. And nearly 5,000 more students earned a college-going score of a minimum of 18 on the ACT colleges admissions test.
Even on the National Assessment of Education Progress, an assessment of math and reading among fourth- and eighth-graders within the U.S. that’s showed stagnant and sometimes decreased achievement since 2015, the Bayou State has bright spots: Louisiana ranked No. 1 within the nation in 2019 for improvement in eighth grade math, the state’s pace of improvement since 2009 altogether subjects exceeds national trends and it ranks among the highest 10 for improvement over the last decade altogether four subject-grade assessments.
Despite all the improvements and accolades, Louisiana’s education system still ranks at rock bottom on multiple measures of accomplishment – something White says is intrinsically linked to the racism and inequality borne out of the state’s history of slavery.
“Our state, like any state, is during a constant state of reckoning with its history,” White says. “You can’t disconnect Louisiana performance on any indicator from its beautiful, but also very ugly, history.”
“Our education system, like our health system and economy, is reckoning thereupon ,” he continues. “Improvement, steady improvement, year after year and decade after decade is what our state needs. we’ve every reason to hope for a far better Louisiana within the future because we’ve made improvements at a faster rate than our peers. But we do this within the context of a history that keeps tugging us backward. Our job is to persist despite ugly circumstances.”
White is currently the longest serving state education chief within the U.S. and, to date, the longest serving state chief who was a product of the education movement .
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Before becoming Louisiana’s top schools chief, he ran the state’s Recovery administrative district – the turnaround effort that included most New Orleans schools post-Hurricane Katrina. Before that, he worked under former ny City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and faculty Chancellor Joel Klein, where he oversaw the turnaround of 100 schools and therefore the rapid expansion of the charter sector.
He was appointed by the state board of education in 2012 and has since overseen the state’s schools during a crucial and tumultuous moment for K-12 within the U.S. – a time during which the bulk of states took on aggressive education reforms, including the adoption of more rigorous standards and state tests, new teacher evaluation and compensation systems, new models for turning around low-performing schools and new laws that lifted caps on charter schools.
Among states that went all-in thereon education agenda, which was largely driven by the Obama administration’s competitive education grant Race to the highest in 2010, only White, who was appointed months after Louisiana nabbed its grant in 2011, remains serving within the same position.