My opinion is that while the changes proposed by St. Helena are helpful, the entire premise behind the school rating system is inherently flawed. BESE policy requires that the school ratings must be based primarily on student test results. If its purpose was to inform the public about the level of educational services provided to students in schools and school districts, then the rating system fails miserably. The rating system does not tell parents or taxpayers anything about the quality of educational services provided to students. As Bruce Baker, Professor in the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers, and researcher Gerald Bracey have argued often, educational rankings tend to reveal more about conditions outside of the school’s control than about the quality of education. Overwhelmingly in all types of educational rankings the greatest predictor of high or low rankings is wealth or poverty.
Here is a letter to The Advocate by a school activist in East Baton Rouge Parish that describes the unfairness and ultimate futility of the state school rating system from the point of view of a citizen that simply wants to tackle the real problems affecting our schools.
The following is the most concise and accurate summary I can make of the present school rating and grading system used in Louisiana:
The rating of school systems and schools based solely on a ranking of student outcomes as measured by standardized tests focused on narrow subject areas, guarantees that school systems serving the most disadvantaged students will always be rated at the bottom of the ranking. When that ranking is expressed using a letter grading system, the schools and school systems serving the most disadvantaged students will always be rated as D’s and F’s.