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Research Questions

  1. What key actions has Louisiana undertaken to reform early childhood education, K–12 academics, K–12 teacher preparation, and graduation pathways?
  2. On what key policy levers has Louisiana relied to undertake these actions?
  3. What are the challenges stakeholders in the education system — including educators and external partners — may face in implementing the reforms Louisiana has put in place?

Louisiana has received recent attention for some of its new education policies and promising early results. In this report, RAND researchers provide an in-depth description of Louisiana's approach to improving student outcomes since 2012. The authors examine how the state has used various policy levers — including mandates, resource alignment, incentives, and communication and planning processes — to pursue reform strategies in four areas: early childhood education, K–12 academics, K–12 teacher preparation, and graduation pathways.

This report sets the stage for more in-depth analyses of Louisiana's policy implementation, challenges, and student outcomes that might be linked to its reform efforts. Reports detailing these analyses will also provide recommendations on how Louisiana's and similar efforts might be improved.

Key Findings

Cross-cutting themes in Louisiana's reform efforts in the areas of early childhood education, K–12 academics, K–12 teacher preparation, and graduation pathways

  • In each area of the Louisiana's reform efforts, there is a clarity of vision around what constitutes "high-quality" teaching and learning.
  • When reforms are not part of federal mandates, reform strategies follow a theory of implementation and action that might be more expected to lead to change.
  • State leaders engage in close communication with educators to gather feedback and promote buy-in.
  • LDOE has established partnerships with external stakeholders who have embraced the state's vision.
  • LDOE has undertaken efforts to align its mandates with incentives, resources, and tools.
  • The resources and incentives provided by the state are intended to promote equity.
  • LDOE has created an accountability system that uses indicators of both processes and outcomes, with increasing emphasis on outcomes as students get older.

Potential challenges that might limit the impact of Louisiana's reforms

  • Reform success likely depends on whether early childhood education centers and schools have the capacity and necessary supports to undertake state reforms.
  • Research has not yet demonstrated the effectiveness of teacher preparation policies such as those undertaken by LDOE, which suggests the need for close study of those policies over the next several years.
  • The state's tradition of local control likely has both benefits and drawbacks that could lead to uneven reform adoption.

Research conducted by

This research was sponsored by the Baton Rouge Area Foundation and conducted within RAND Education.

This report is part of the RAND research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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