Louisiana looks to suspend school ranking letter grades this year

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BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD)– Louisiana education has hit some major lows these past few years due to the pandemic. Transitions between virtual learning and in-person learning have created some learning gaps and barriers for students across the state.

The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) believes this should not reflect the school’s letter ranking.

BESE is looking to temporarily waive school letter grade ranking this year. This comes after COVID-19 made negative impacts on student learning and scores. Some local education groups think this will be beneficial, while others believe differently.

School performance scores are usually released in November, but that could change this year.

“They are trying to receive a waiver from the federal government, due to the extenuating circumstances the schools have endured over the past year,” said Louisiana Association of Educators President Tia Mills.

BESE wants to suspend school letter grades after a brutal year with the pandemic. Mills said this is necessary.

“From the pandemic to major storms, we think it would be a great option,” Mills said.

The Louisiana School Boards Association said in a statement:

“The LSBA supports Recommendation 1 and urges BESE to waive several provisions of state policy to align it with the context of the federal waiver this Board directed the Department to seek. In the midst of an unprecedented series of events that has led to unfinished learning, disruptions in educational minutes, and new untested methods, it would be inappropriate to tie consequences and finances to unreliable data.”

The East Baton Rouge Federation of Teachers and Support Workers was in favor of the change. 

“It not only affects students but the educators as well who are required to teach the students what they need to know to be successful on these tests,” said President East Baton Rouge Federation of Teachers and Support Workers Angela Reams-Brown.

Stand for Children Louisiana Government Affairs Director Brigitte Nieland believes ranking letter grades should still be implemented.

“It determines in a way, potential opportunities for children in those schools, what their futures look like. Their opportunities and their economic outlooks,” she said.

School performance score ratings show how well schools and centers prepare students for the next grade level and provide accountability.

Niedland said these grades also help detemine other factors.

“First things companies look at when they come into the area they are going to locate there and supply thousands of jobs is what the job force is going to look like,” she explained.

Louisiana is one of 45 other states looking for this exemption.

“The BESE board and the state superintendent went on to ask for the waiver because the precedent has already been set by the other 45 states,” said Brown.

Niedland said there are other options to supplement for such a detrimental year.

“Even if it is a roll-forward of the same letter grade where at least providing some type of stability,” she said.

BESE is still waiting for federal approval from the waiver.

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