Louisiana state education board working on changes to high school accountability ratings

(The Center Square) — The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will review a proposal later this month to change how high schools are rated following an eight month study by an Accountability Study Group.

The study group, composed of members of the BESE, will present a series of proposed changes to the full board on Aug. 23, the most controversial of which center on better aligning high school letter grades with the results from student LEAP tests and other proficiency measures.

Much of the focus centers on the reality that only 37% of Louisiana high school students are considered proficient on LEAP tests measuring mastery in math, English, social studies and science, while 70% of the state’s public high schools have received A or B letter grades.

Those figures are in contrast to more balanced ratings for elementary schools, where 35% of students achieved mastery on state assessments and 41% of schools are rated A or B.

“When we are talking about high schools it is hard for me to reconcile that 37% of our kids are mastering content, 18 on the ACT is our average and 70% of high schools are A and B,” Louisiana Superintendent Cade Brumley told The Advocate following a Monday study group meeting.

“And so I am just trying to raise the expectations, raise the standards, and I think our high schools will rise to that level of expectation.”

Superintendents across the state have pushed back on the proposal and timeline for implementing changes, which would potentially reduce bonus points schools can earn for things like students graduating on time, passing college-level classes or exams or a WorkKeys test for students pursuing a career after high school.

The study group proposal would implement changes beginning with the 2025-26 school year, through superintendents pushed to delay the changes until 2026 or beyond.

Michael Faulk, executive director of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents, told The Center Square that instead of implementing the changes with students who are now sophomores, “it would make more sense to begin with the 9th grade cohort for the 2023-24 school year.”

Faulk said superintendents have also raised concerns with a lack of clarity on dual enrollment courses that would qualify for points under the new system, as well as “unintended consequences” for student subgroups, such as English language learners.

“You have implications for these sub groups I don’t think they’re taking into consideration,” he said.

Faulk expressed concerns about financial constraints for rural districts in northern Louisiana that would also struggle to offer certain course requirements. Other issues raised by superintendents deal with losing points for high schoolers who simply graduate.

“They’re giving no points to the districts if students just graduate,” Faulk said. “They get a diploma, but the district isn’t being rewarded for them getting that diploma.”

The proposal, outlined by the Accountability Study Group on Monday, “was the first time we saw some of the dynamics of it,” Faulk said.

The superintendents association is now crafting a draft proposal to address some of the concerns and offer general recommendations for improvement at the Aug. 23 BESE meeting.