District 57 candidate and St. John School Board member Russ Wise, who helped design the original statewide school accountability program for Louisiana, says the decision to give each school and school district in the state a letter grade was “poorly thought out.” Wise says he’s worried that grading schools that way is misleading and will lead to unfair and inaccurate comparisons. “It’s not the first time that politics has damaged accountability in Louisiana but it may be the worst.”
Wise said the original accountability plan was designed to avoid school-to-school comparisons. “Schools have different populations of students with different issues confronting them. Some have strong parental support while other schools and their students get no help at all from parents. The new way of grading schools doesn’t take that into account. Ironically private, parochial, and most charter schools have no accountability nor transparency. Parents have no way at all of comparing them to local public schools.”
Wise also pointed out that the A-to-F grading system ignores the degree to which schools have improved since the accountability program began.
“They’re telling a school that has seen test scores double in just four years that they’re only worth a D. That’s unfair, misleading, and disheartening. It says their efforts to improve are worthless. Many schools began with a base score of 20 or less, but are now ranked somewhere between 80 and 90 on a scale of 200. Their School Performance Scores have tripled or quadrupled but the state now rates them as near-failing. There’s something wrong about that. That is piling on.”
Wise says public schools and school boards are suffering a triple whammy.
“The drop in the economy was bad enough,” Wise said. “We could have weathered that. But then the state comes along with an entire series of bad decisions. It refuses to give schools their ordinary 4-percent boost in Minimum Foundation Program funds that normally helps cover things like increases in food and diesel fuel. Have you checked the prices of milk recently,” he asked “or filled up your tank?”
“Then the BESE board begins issuing charters to schools run by for-profit corporations or to well-meaning groups that have no experience either in business or education. Many of them are already under fire but still get state subsidies that the state is no longer providing for its own schools.
Those are not the only attacks state officials have made on traditional local schools and their money, Wise says, adding, “Instead of taking a common sense approach to modernization by incorporating both new and traditional methods, the state seems to want to throw out the baby along with the bath water. You can’t help feeling a little paranoid…and just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you!”