BESE to take up new path toward school grading system

BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – Earlier this year, The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) set its sights on changing Louisiana’s tradition of ranking its schools with letter grades. The Board fell short of its goal.

But instead of throwing in the towel, BESE is taking another shot.

Educators from around the state have weighed in on the process and new research aims to find a new plan.

When BESE proposed the idea back in November, it didn’t garner enough votes to move forward with a new grading (or accountability) system for grades 3-12.

According to the current system, more than 70% of Louisiana’s high schools are ranked with an A or B. But some believe the standards require adjustments that will clarify each school’s needs. This is a key factor as Louisiana continues to struggle with both literacy and graduation rates.

“The area of the strength of the diploma is a major focus and that was the one area where a big shift was made and people were not able to grasp,” said Mike Faulk, Executive Director of the Louisiana Association of Superintendents.

The Louisiana Association of Superintendents was against the original plan. Faulk said students in dual enrollment, advance placement, and career preparation courses should be weighted the same.

Some feel the previously proposed plan would be unbalanced against rural and low income districts.

If a school’s rank drops for multiple years, the Department of Education steps in to help.

“They must submit a plan to the Department of Education about what they are going to do. The Department of Education does have resources available that they provide for the district,” Faulk said.

This week, BESE will vote on the official definition of college and workforce readiness to better shape their policies. Louisiana is one of a few states that does not have a clear definition. 

“The problem is they are chasing the wrong targets because we are not getting the desired outcomes… 80% of our students are on the TOPU, pathway but only 19% actually graduate college,” said BESE member, Ronnie Morris.

The goal is to also clarify the accountability system for some schools ranking high in growth but overall still earning a low grade. Morris said that is confusing for teachers who show they are working to the best of their abilities though their school is still receiving a D or F.

BESE meets Wednesday, December 14 to continue talks on the topic.