Saturday, June 4, 2011

School Letter Grade Suspension Defeated

The Senate Education Committee deferred action Thursday on SB 201 by Senator Perry that would have suspended the BESE approved school grading policy for two years. This action effectively kills the bill. The bill would also have required BESE to form a task force to come up with a new grading policy which proponents hoped would be fairer than the BESE policy scheduled to go into effeict this fall.

The Governor's office, BESE member Chas Roemer and business interests said that the public needed to get the "truth" about their public schools. Supposedly this letter grading system will tell parents the truth about the education opportunities their children are getting in a particular school. The two Senators supporting the measure, Senator Dorsey of Baton Rouge, and Senator Perry from Kaplan, pointed out that the new letter grade system may not correctly inform parents about the quality of the teachers, and may only reflect the disadvantages or level of poverty of the students.

The author of this blog and representatives of LAE, LFT, School Boards Association and school administrators supplied the Committee with data and charts showing that the level of poverty at a school was the overwhelmingly dominant factor in determining school performance scores.  Several speakers for the bill pointed out that the new grading scale would drive effective and experienced teachers away from the most challenging schools. Also the new grading system will make it difficult to attract positive parental involvement in a school assigned a "D" or "F" grade by this over simplified system.

Proponents of the new grading system suggested that when a school gets a low grade, parents may finally demand improved education for their children. Many public school advocates believe this grading system will not produce the positive changes educators are seeking, such as students who attend school every day prepared to learn. Instead it will add fuel to the drive for more privatization and vouchers.

Correction: An earlier post on this blog incorrectly stated that the BESE policy would add a minus to the school grade for a school that did not succeed in meeting the state mandated SPS growth for a particular year. The policy states that the minus would only be assigned if the school had a decline in SPS from the previous year.