New Louisiana public school grading system prompts worries

Posted at 6:44 AM, Aug 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-07 07:44:06-04

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) – As Louisiana’s public schools begin to reopen, local superintendents are telling parents to brace for a drop in upcoming school letter grades.
Louisiana has a new, tougher rating system that will force ratings lower, prompting some education officials to worry that will spark outcry.
Cade Brumley, superintendent of the Jefferson Parish School District, the largest in the state, told The Advocate that she’s talking to community groups about the change.
"Obviously I think there will be concern from people that do not understand that there was a shift in the formula," Brumley said.
Michael Faulk, executive director of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents, said his group has been advising superintendents for months to get ready for the changes, "to prepare people so it won’t be a shock."
The worries stem from major changes in the calculation of school performance scores, which show how students fared on key tests, graduation rates and academic growth. The changes are aimed at adding rigor to classrooms and making annual snapshots of student achievement in Louisiana comparable to other states.
Critics said previous scores were inflated and misled parents on student performance.
State figures show that during the transition, the number of F-rated schools will rise by 57 percent while those with A ratings will drop 38 percent.
Earlier this year, the Legislature took the unusual step of requiring the state to issue two scores and two letter grades this time – one on how schools fared under the old, more generous system and the other with the new ratings. Educators say while that will help soften the blow when grades drop, spreading the word in advance is the best way to avoid an uproar.
Scott Devillier, superintendent of the top-rated Zachary School District, said officials are even considering a town hall meeting to explain the changes after the scores come out, possibly in October.
Jim Garvey, a member of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education from Metairie, said Texas, Florida and other states have used tougher standards to grade schools than Louisiana. He said people worried about the letter grade drop "are focusing on the wrong thing."
"What we need to do is decide which schools are really B’s and which schools are really C’s and focus on getting those to A’s," he said.