Push to revamp public schools sparks split in education community, ‘Time to raise the bar’ | Education

State education officials and local school superintendents are on a collision course over a proposed overhaul of the state’s accountability system for public schools.

State Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley and others want to toughen the rules so high schools get an A grade. They also want to allow Louisiana’s first accountability system for kindergarten students, grade one and grade two, and make it harder for schools to improve their grades through academic growth.

“We’ve had this conversation for two years,” Brumley said, noting that a study group from the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has been looking at the issue for the past seven months. “There were plenty of opportunities for comment and we accepted them.”

But the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents, which represents system leaders statewide, called the proposed changes drastic and hasty. They asked that a new study be initiated with the participation of superintendents, principals, school board members and parents.

“We’re not averse to liability,” said Mike Faulk, the group’s chief executive. “But superintendents and school systems need to implement all of this.”

BESE is expected to debate the issue on August 23, and even supporters admit the plans cover a lot of ground.

“There’s going to be a lot to digest for these BESE members,” said Jim Garvey, Metairie’s attorney and chairman of the board, who is generally supportive of the changes.

The new rules for high schools are a big part of the proposal, driven in large part by the fact that 70% of high schools have state A or B ratings. Critics say those ratings are wildly inflated and not consistent with how high school students do on standardized tests, including LEAP and the ACT college prep exam.

“Seventy percent of A and B schools is not a realistic situation,” Garvey said.

Under this plan, students would have to pass two college-level exams, earn 12 college credit hours, and meet other criteria for schools to earn an A grade. high schools without additional credits would earn no points for their school.

Superintendents argue that these and other changes will cause high school grades to drop massively. They also argue that students in poor, rural school districts will have little opportunity to earn the college credits needed to earn an A grade.

In a draft report submitted to BESE last week, Faulk’s group said the state needs an accountability system based on appropriate outcomes “rather than reducing the number of high schools with a certain grade. alphabetical”.

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Ronnie Morris, a BESE member who attended all meetings of the five-member study group, on which he sat, said the new rules will benefit students.

“LEAP scores … are less than desirable, with only 37% of students earning a master’s degree (second highest level of achievement) and only 6% earning a JumpStart advanced degree (career),” he said. “These results don’t prepare Louisiana kids to compete in a global economy. Quality matters! It’s time to raise the bar.”

Another key topic – how to measure and what weight to give to academic growth – is causing controversy.

Under current rules, growth counts for 25% of academic performance scores, which are then tied to a letter grade. Students can earn points in two ways: by meeting learning objectives or based on how well they perform against their peers.

Critics argue that the system, especially the comparison component, is overly generous and leads to inflated scores. Under Brumley’s plan, students who score below the 50th percentile compared to their peers would get no points for growth.

In their report, the superintendents said points should be awarded to students who remain at the previous year’s level of achievement.

Brumley wants the high school changes to go into effect for the 2025-26 school year. Superintendents want the new rules delayed until 2027 or 2028.

Garvey said school systems have shown their ability to rise to the challenge when standards are raised and have new resources to offer courses for college credit.

“That’s why I think it’s appropriate at this time to reset the bar,” he said.

Brumley noted that he was targeted in 2021 when his proposed changes focused only on K-2 students and changed the way academic growth is measured.

“One of the criticisms I heard last year was that it was too piecemeal,” he said. “We tried to make it more complete, and now people are saying it’s too complete. I’m just trying to thread the needle between those two things.”

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