CABL Op-Ed from The Advocate: BESE Has Opportunity to Strengthen School Accountability

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has an opportunity to enact new policies in the state’s accountability system that could dramatically improve the education outcomes of our students. We hope they do it.

For the past two years, board members and the state Superintendent of Education have been studying changes to Louisiana’s accountability system. That’s the mechanism the state uses to set goals and expectations for student performance and measure how well our schools are doing. Together, officials have met more than 40 times with various groups, listened to the concerns of diverse stakeholders, and made numerous changes and improvements to the proposal that BESE is set to consider.

Now it is time to implement the policy.

For many years our accountability system has served us well. Early on it was a catalyst for improving student test scores from deplorably low levels to a point where more students are approaching proficiency. But we need to get our kids to that next level. Sadly, in recent years much of the significant growth has stalled, our system is less transparent than it should be, and it is time to update it and make it more responsive to the needs of today’s students.

The new proposal does that in several important ways.

  • It rewards growth in student performance. Getting to proficiency is our overarching goal, but you achieve that through accelerating growth. Many of our students are starting far behind where they should be. This new plan provides incentives for growth by recognizing schools when student achievement really improves.
  • It provides a clearer picture of how our students are performing. Today 70% of our high schools earn a letter grade of A or B, yet we remain at the bottom in national rankings. Almost 30% of our students need remedial work in English when they get to college and 44% in math. This proposal offers parents and the public a more honest view of how well our schools are educating children.
  • It encourages a greater focus on career and technical education in high school. In the past we have undervalued that aspect of education. This proposal gives our schools additional incentives to offer career and technical classes and provide students the opportunity to graduate not just with a diploma, but a skill that prepares them for the workforce.

If the recent release of scores on “The Nation’s Report Card” tells us anything it is that many of our kids have suffered severe learning loss due to the pandemic and we need to address that crisis with the sense of urgency it deserves.

For too long our students have been at the bottom of national rankings. But they can do better, and we can do better for them, if we act now. While this proposal is not perfect it represents the most comprehensive study of our accountability system in years and some of the most meaningful proposals for improving it.

It sets expectations that are aligned with our goals and focuses on the things that are important – making sure students are proficient in foundational subjects and giving every young person the opportunity to be successful after they graduate.

Delayed action means no action. Another pause is another way of shortchanging our students at a time when they need our help sooner rather than later.

From The Advocate, November 11, 2022

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