Rising standards may leave some schools in dust
Since 1999, the number of schools in Louisiana that are considered academically unacceptable has risen considerably. But the reason is not necessarily that schools are becoming less successful.
In the past 10 years, the state performance score that deems a school academically unacceptable has risen considerably. In 1999, a school with a performance score of 30 or below was considered unacceptable. For the 2010-2011 school year, a score of 65 qualifies a school as unacceptable.
“When you look statewide, it creates the impression in the minds of people that schools are not doing a good job,” said Rachel Allemand, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment. “People don’t realize that the schools are not becoming less effective.”
So far, no schools in St. Charles Parish are considered academically unacceptable, but the significant rise in state standards has some educators worried.
Schools that are deemed academically unacceptable for a period of four years are eligible to become part of the state’s Recovery School District.
“People are looking at the Recovery District and thinking it can’t happen to them,” Superintendent Rodney Lafon said during a legislative committee meeting. “(The state) is raising the (academically unacceptable) scores to 75 next year. Soon they will be at 105 and all Louisiana schools could be part of the Recovery District.”
In New Orleans, 112 schools have already been placed in the recovery district. The Recovery District receives both state and local portions of funding and any federal funding that would follow the children who attend the schools in the district. That could mean less funding for the St. Charles Parish school district if local schools fall into the state’s hands. Schools placed into the Recovery District must stay a part of the district for a minimum of five years.
The state’s Accountability Goal is to have all schools reach a performance score of 120 by 2014, meaning that any school with a score lower than that would be considered unacceptable.
Lafon said that he is concerned about many schools throughout the state reaching that goal due to extenuating circumstances, such as the needs of special education students who may not meet the mark.
Allemand said that the state’s goal with school performance scores is an interpretation of the No Child Left Behind Act. She also said that the possible effect on special education students is a national concern.
“One of the issues nationwide that people have with this is that, especially with children with disabilities, it is difficult for 100 percent of children to score at basic,” Allemand said. “We certainly want every child to score basic and above, but we are still concerned about the impression it makes.”
Lafon said that while he thinks it is good to hold schools to a high standard, the state has increasingly raised the bar for performance scores without offering much to help schools reach the new higher goals.
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