Editorial: State education grades leave many scratching their heads

Another report card on public education in Louisiana, another set of mixed and confusing set of grades.

Education Week magazine’s annual

assessment gave our state an A in accountability and other ways it

measures teacher quality

and student knowledge, and an F in student achievement. In an

inglorious hat trick, it’s the third consecutive year the magazine

has assigned the state a failing grade in student achievement.

So why the gap between measurement and student performance?

Leslie Jacobs, credited with being

one of the prime catalysts behind Louisiana’s school accountability

system and an advocate

for improved teacher quality, said the state’s high poverty level

goes a long way in explaining the grade disparity. She noted

that almost two-thirds of the state’s 712,000 public school

students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches based on their

families’ incomes.

Jacobs said that means the state has ‘‘a steeper hill to climb,’’ but added that significant improvements in the state’s high

school graduation rate show that education reforms are having an effect in Louisiana.

State Superintendent of Education John White said fewer student dropouts and improved ACT scores are also indications that

the reforms are working.

The dean of LSU’s College of Human Sciences and Education, Laura Lindsay, warned that people should peel back the top layer

of these education reports and study the organization that is making them, its funding and its motivation.

Others would likely argue that the difference in accountability and student achievement in Louisiana mirrors the difference

between theory and practical application.

Public school teachers and

administrators — those professionals who are in the public school

trenches every day — would also

submit that student achievement grades that do not take into

account the poverty level that Jacobs refers to or the lack of

parental or guardian involvement in students’ education careers

are fundamentally flawed.

National Council on Quality Teacher President Kay Walsh said the plethora of education reports can lead to confusion by public officials and taxpayers.

‘‘The more people that do it, the more confusing it becomes,’’ she told The Advocate of Baton Rouge.

That may best explain why these grades have left many scratching their heads.

• • •

This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney,

Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.