New school rating system called misleading

Michelle Stuckey
January 27, 2011 at 2:17 pm  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

Children in St. Charles Parish will no longer be attending two and three star schools this fall. Their schools will be rated as B, C and D schools by the state starting in October.

The change in how schools are rated was made at the state level.

Felecia Gomez, Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Schools and Quality Assurance for the parish, said that while both the State Superintendent and a group of individual superintendents from across the state presented plans on how to change the rating system, the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, or BESE, rejected both plans and came up with its own guidelines.

“I have some growing concerns about the rating system…and the (BESE) board,” said School Board president Ellis Alexander. “I think the BESE board is just playing around with the public.”

The ratings will not go into effect until October 2011 and will be based on the spring 2011 testing scores.

Schools that achieve or exceed their growth target will have a plus next to their letter grade and those that decline will have a minus next to their grade. So a school that is rated as B- could actually have a higher performance score than a school rated as B+ depending on which school met its growth target.

Many on the School Board and administration felt that the scores could be misleading to the public.

“My take is that this is just another opportunity for the state to make public schools look bad so that they can increase public opinion about charter schools in the state and increase favoritism towards charter schools,” said Dennis Naquin, past School Board president. “I don’t think that’s the way to go at all.”

School Board member John Smith agreed that the new rating system is misleading.

“I believe this system for (identifying) schools is very calculated,” Smith said during the meeting. He said he believes it is meant to make it seem like Louisiana schools are failing.

During the meeting, Gomez said the change seems designed to give the public a poor representation of public schools.

Not only does the new system change from stars to letters, but it also changes the criteria to meet those letters.

Similar to the rating system currently in place where the minimum score to achieve each star rating was raised each year, next year the new system will raise the standard criteria to achieve each grade letter. Gomez called the system “a moving target.”

“I think the whole idea of this is to continue to give the bottom schools a higher target to aim for,” Gomez said.

But Board member Sonny Savoie said that constantly raising standards without offering much help to those who fall behind is not going to work.

“If you keep raising the bar on people, nobody’s ever going to be able to jump the bar - does that mean they’re total failures?” Savoie said.

If the new rating scale was currently in place, nine parish schools would be rated in the B category, seven would be in the C category and one would be in the D category. Also, about half of Louisiana’s public schools would be rated as D or below, according to Gomez. She said that many of the schools that fall into the A range are magnet schools that can pick and choose students.

“This is going to get worse folks before it gets better and the only way we can change it is at the ballots,” Savoie said.

Naquin suggested that voters do research and spend extra time considering the next Board of Elementary and Secondary Education elections.

“The voting public needs to take a serious look and evaluate the candidates that are running for BESE in the next election,” Naquin said. “Really research them and their platforms.”

View other articles written Michelle Stuckey

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