We’re No. 21! Really?

Twenty-first place is not generally something to cheer about.

Rarely do you see a team chanting, “We’re number 21!” during television broadcasts. After all, it’s a pretty dubious cheer at first glance.

But in Louisiana’s case, sadly, learning that we’re 21st in the nation in terms of the overall quality of education is a major feat. Education Week magazine announced the rating in its 2008 edition of Quality Counts. But the news is mixed.

Louisiana rated an overall “C” grade for is performances in six categories: achievement in grades kindergarten through 12, standards and accountability, teaching, school finance, chances for success and alignment.

The state scored better – earning an “A” – for its accountability program. In fact, with a score of 98.5, we’re second only to Indiana.

But when individual student achievement is scored, Louisiana earned a “D-,” ranking the state 47th in the nation and 50th in the U.S. on the Chance for Success index.

For the record, the state’s teaching corps earned a “B,” tying with Georgia. In previous years, the state ranked number one in teacher quality efforts.

“This report confirms what we already know,” State Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek said in a statement. “As compared to other states, our steady and positive improvement of academic achievement simply isn’t enough.”

He’s calling on the state to help under-performing schools and calling for more long-term strategies to help students who are not making the grade.

To compete in today’s work world, students must be equipped with the needed skills to compete. Time and time again, Louisiana has seen companies opt to locate elsewhere because our communities cannot provide the necessary skilled workforce.

The good news is that overall the system is making great strides. But upon closer examination, we are leaving a number of children behind. Let’s celebrate the improvements, but then it’s back to the books. There’s still much work ahead if our leaders of tomorrow are to be prepared for the tasks that await them.