Letter to the editor: Support the unifying TOPS program
Our parish superintendents have the impossible jobs of trying to manage in a totally fragmented environment. State controlled charter schools with external charter operators, local charter schools, recovery school district schools, vouchers to private and parochial schools and the remains of a once unified school district are variables over which parish superintendents have little or no control. Economy of scale, marginal costs, master teachers, detailed curricula content and uniform standards are concepts that years ago went out the window. The number one educational system on planet earth is located in Finland where one finds highly trained teachers backed up by tutors and family sociologists. It is truly a unified educational system that produces exceptional results for all specializations.
One very bright spot in Louisiana education is a major unifying factor between all the high schools in the state. That unifying factor is the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS). All high schools now offer a 19 unit college preparatory curriculum covering English, mathematics, science, social science and language. While algebra I in Mamou may not be quite the same as algebra I in Ruston, the text book adoption process makes the content essentially the same across all high schools. For college bound students there is a curriculum based test titled the American College Test (ACT), a battery of tests made up by true testing experts with validation of every question on each test. It is an achievement test that is statistically related to success in college.
Currently there are 125,000 to 130,000 high school students following the TOPS core curriculum. Over time the rigor of the TOPS curriculum has been increased and graduates in 2018 will have completed a much more rigorous program, more so than common core standards. School administrators, teachers, parents and students know the value of earning a TOPS award. There is special interest on the part all concerned to insure college bound students earn the required grades and composite test score. Of the 49,000 or so high school graduates each year more than 30,000 will have completed the TOPS core and roughly 18,000 will qualify for a TOPS award. All are better off for having made the effort. They will be the vast majority of those who graduate or earn certificates from post-secondary institutions
There is a near silent but strong interest in the academic achievement of students in every high school as it relates to the TOPS program. There is no need for all the rancor over new tests, new standards or new curriculums when all we have to do for high schools is get behind the unifying TOPS program and support it.
James H. Wharton
Professor and Chancellor Emeritus
Louisiana State University