Any conversation about education policy in the New Orleans area or in Louisiana as a whole needs to be properly contextualized, but far too often, we've debated education policies - including what standards we should expect schoolchildren to meet - as if we're on an island onto ourselves. We're not. New Orleans is part of a state. Our state is part of the country. Our country is part of the world. Consequently, if we want a more accurate idea of how our children are doing academically, we'd measure them not against children down the bayou but against children across the world.
Perhaps a sports analogy will drive home the point. How many times have we seen some college team from the Midwest boasting of an undefeated season, only to line up against an SEC team in the national championship and get embarrassed? Being the best up there in football doesn't mean a whole lot. Neither does being the best down here academically.
The regional disparity that puts the South academically behind the rest of the country is worrisome enough by itself. But it's even more disturbing once the United States' global position is considered. According to a recent test taken by 157,000 people worldwide, Americans are below average in our ability to read, compute and problem solve. And before you shake your heads and say, "These kids today," be aware that this test was given to adults, people between the ages of 16 and 65.