State Touts ‘Across the Board’ Gains in School Performance Scores

State Superintendent John White heralded “across the board” progress for Louisiana’s educators on Monday, with the latest performance scores showing some kind of improvement at more than three-quarters of the state’s nearly 1,300 schools.
john-white-may2012.jpg State Superintendent of Education John White, shown in May, heralded “across the board” progress for Louisiana’s educators on Monday.

White said 163 schools earned an “A” in Louisiana’s new letter grading system, up from 98. And while the number of F schoolsacross-the-board jumped to 157 from 115 that was only because the state board of education decided to raise the failing bar. Had standards remained unchanged, White noted, the number of failing schools would have dropped to 70.

Among whole districts, which also receive performance scores and letter grades, seven earned an “A,” up from just one last year.

The latest scores show “the reforms are working,” White said, and that “educators and students are stepping up to the challenge in front of them.”

He also warned, however, that schools will have to continue improving results as annual assessments get tougher and Louisiana moves toward a more stringent grading system. Beginning next year, for instance, schools won’t get points in the performance score calculation for students who earn “approaching basic” rather than “basic” on state exams, and ACT results will figure into high school scores for the first time.

“Our tests are getting harder,” White said. “Schools will continue to have to up their game.”

One of the state’s biggest teachers unions, the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, offered a starkly different interpretation of the latest results. The gains, argued LFT President Steve Monaghan in a statement, suggest the sweeping overhaul of state education policy undertaken by Gov. Bobby Jindal at the Legislature this year “were not as critical as proponents argued.”

Jindal’s package of education bills created a statewide voucher program, made it easier to open new charter schools and loosened job security for teachers, among other steps.

Of course, supporters of the governor’s approach to improving schools still see plenty of room for improvement. At the Department of Education’s press conference Monday Chas Roemer, a member of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, or BESE, noted that more than 200,000 students in Louisiana are still scoring below grade level.

The political battles at the state Legislature this spring were “worth the effort,” Roemer said. “BESE will continue to raise the bar on expectations. The results you see today are the result of two things: higher expectations and leadership in the classroom.”


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