When it comes to the Lafayette school system, I want to applaud all those who have committed themselves to getting the "facts" on the table ("IndBox: A One-Man Truth Squad," Aug. 3). Nothing is more important. I'd like to share a few I regard as important.
Dr. Easton mentioned transportation as a major "challenge." I not only agree, I would remind everyone that the state found questions and allegations serious enough to do its own audit of this area. We still await their findings.
One area not mentioned is facilities. The staff's own estimate of the cost of addressing this crisis makes it the most expensive ' if not the most serious ' issue facing the district, and yet we are still borrowing money to do maintenance with no plan to address the issue as a whole.
However, as we are an educational institution, I hope everyone would agree that academics are still our highest priority. The state issues rankings each year under its accountability program. Lafayette's current rank is 20th. I hope everyone would agree that this is not acceptable. A close analysis of the rankings and scores reveals that there is a huge performance gap between black and white students in Lafayette Parish. Lafayette is 11th in the state in educating its white students. However, only five parishes in the state have a performance gap that exceeded Lafayette's; one was Orleans, and one was Baton Rouge ' not very distinguished company. So how do we plan to address this glaring deficiency and raise Lafayette's ranking in the state? Research can provide the answer.
Professors Alan B. Krueger and Diane M. Whitmore of Princeton presented a paper entitled "Closing the Gap: Promising Approaches to Reducing the Achievement Gap" at a conference co-sponsored by the Brookings Institute and Edison School Inc. They maintained, "â?¦we find that movements in class sizes account for almost all of the narrowing of the black-white test score gap." They go on to assert, "If all students were in a small class [13-17] â?¦ we estimate that the black-white test-score gap would fall by 38 percent in grades K-3, and by 15 percent thereafter."
Internationally recognized expert Dr. Charles Achilles was brought to Lafayette in the fall and stated very clearly, "The only thing that has ever provided scientific-based evidence that it closes this performance gap is the size of the class." He went on to call arguments against lowering class size based on funding a "scare tactic" and pointed to three specific sources of funding (teachers' aides, staff development and federal Title funds) which could be reallocated to achieve appropriate size classes at no additional cost to the district. Achilles also wrote in a paper that he presented to the American Association of School Administrators in San Francisco that, "Class size has produced such a substantial body of research â?¦ that failure to use the information might be considered malpractice." As Achilles pointed out, there are hundreds of such studies all with the same conclusions to consider.
Given these "facts," our staff's recommendations to eliminate teaching positions and raise class sizes for four of the last five fiscal years remain confusing. Similar recommendations are before us yet again this year. It's enough to give one a stroke!