Local leaders concerned as standards for La. schools change

Published 9:49 am Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Earlier this month, the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education unanimously approved a revised school accountability system.

“Grow. Achieve. Thrive.” is the revised accountability system that was recently introduced by the Louisiana Department of Education. The new system was created with transparency, high expectations and career and college readiness in mind.

Schools are scored on a 100-point grading scale. “Grow” measures where students start and finish (especially those in the bottom 25 percent). “Achieve” tracks students’ proficiency in core subjects. “Thrive” weighs graduation rates and nationally recognized exam scores.

Email newsletter signup

BESE District 7 Representative Kevin Berken told the American Press that BESE approved the standards to elevate them to a level for schools and districts to “aspire” to meet.

“There’s an awful lot of schools that are As and Bs throughout the state, which is a wonderful thing, but once you reach those plateaus, the bar needs to be raised,” he said. “I believe that’s what we’ve been doing.”

Berken said the system was based on an accountability system that was implemented by Florida 20 years ago to boost the state’s national education ranking.

“Twenty years ago, they were where we are now. … We took this opportunity to really make a bold move for the future of education in our state.”

Florida currently ranks fifth in the nation in education.

“That is what we’re aiming to do,” Berken said.

“Grow. Achieve. Thrive.” will be implemented in the 2025-26 school year.

Some local school districts are concerned about how it will affect their district’s and schools’ grades. Beauregard Parish Superintendent Larry Hollie said at a board meeting on June 13 that simulations of the new system for the 2023-24 and 2024-25 school years were “not good.”

The Calcasieu Parish School Board said in an email to the American Press that CPSB employees will continue to “work hard every day” to ensure student achievement, no matter the accountability system.

“While accountability measures may change, our focus on student achievement will remain the same. This new accountability system focuses on math and literacy proficiency rates, which has long been the focus of our efforts here in the district,” said Jason VanMetre, chief academic officer for CPSB. “We know that our teachers pour their hearts into what they do each and every day in the classroom to ensure our students are prepared to succeed.”

Berken understands the concerns of local school districts, but has faith that Louisiana schools and districts will be able to meet the standards of the accountability system.

“These highly capable, very smart superintendents and principals will make the changes necessary to align themselves with this new policy, and that will make all education in Louisiana better, and our students more ready for career or college paths,” he said. “I respect the views of my superintendents, principals and teachers. This was our best opportunity for significant change for Louisiana. BESE decided to take it, and I feel confident that our very capable education staff will respond positively and accordingly.”