School grades: Louisiana may give student growth more weight

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In this photo posted on Twitter, students crowd a hallway, Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020, at North Paulding High School in Dallas, Ga. The 30,000-student suburban Paulding County school district in suburban Atlanta resumed classes Monday with 70% of students returning for in-person classes five days a week, days after the principal at North Paulding announced some members of the football team had tested positive for COVID-19. The district says it is encouraging mask use, but isn’t requiring it. (Twitter via AP)

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana’s state education superintendent says school ratings should give more weight to student improvement — something that would cut the number of schools given a D or an F.

Superintendent Cade Brumley wants student growth to count for 38% of the grade rather than the current 25%, The Advocate reported.

“I think it makes great sense,” said Wes Watts, president of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents and superintendent of the West Baton Rouge Parish School District.

A 38% share for student growth would bring Louisiana to the national average, said Kathy Noel, deputy assistant superintendent for assessments, accountability and analytics.

Schools rated D or F made up about 23% of the total in 2019, and simulations indicate that about half of them would go up one grade under the proposed system, she said.

Critics contend the change would be cosmetic, making schools look better by diluting the grading system.

The Louisiana Association of School Superintendents has endorsed the proposal and the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is set to discuss it June 15-16.

School scores used to be based largely on students’ performance on key tests.

Student growth — whether students meet learning targets regardless of test scores and how they compare to their peers — was added in 2017.

The School Accountability Commission, which advises the state board, recommended that student growth account for 47.5% of scores, Brumley said.

If the board approves it, the change would likely need federal approval. It would take effect for the 2021-22 school year.

Barry Erwin, president of the Council for a Better Louisiana, a longtime advocate of school accountability, said Friday his group is open to Brumley’s plan.

“From our perspective, having a higher level of student growth is not a bad thing,” Erwin said.

Public school letter grades have sparked arguments since they began in 2011.

Backers say they give parents and others an easy-to-understand way to see how schools are faring.

Opponents say school performance scores and letter grades are misleading.

State education leaders have not decided whether public schools will get letter grades for the 2020-21 school year.

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