What students, parents and other taxpayers are told about public school districts may be headed for big changes.

A key state panel Monday discussed expanding topics covered in yearly reports, including the success of early childhood programs, teacher quality and how students fare after high school.

The state Accountability Commission, which advises the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, did not take any votes.

Officials emphasized that the talks are preliminary.

But commission members said they are interested in expanding how districts are portrayed beyond the annual letter grades that play a huge role in shaping views.

Under current practices, those grades stem mostly from how students in grades 3-12 fare on key tests.

Under review is whether to offer snapshots in other areas to better reflect students in kindergarten through second grade, and younger.

Mickey Landry, a commission member, said any such discussion a few years ago would have been criticized because it did not involve test results.

"I think this is headed in a good direction," said Landry, a New Orleans charter school leader.

Kathy Noel, chairwoman of the panel and an educator in DeSoto Parish in northwest Louisiana, noted that the public school landscape has undergone sweeping changes since today's District Performance Scores were formulated.

Jessica Baghian, assistant state superintendent for assessments and accountability, led the discussion and noted that early childhood education has undergone a makeover in recent years.

Baghian said some superintendents and others have said there should be ways for taxpayers to see how districts are handling new areas of emphasis in assessing their performance.

The issue, she said, is whether reporting on districts should represent a broad or narrow scope.

Another possible topic of new attention would be teacher quality. For instance, about one in five public school teachers are either uncertified or teaching outside their area of expertise. Is there a link between a district in the top group, where 13 percent are uncertified or in the bottom quartile, where 34 percent are uncertified or teaching a subject where they are not certified?

Nearly four in 10 teachers leave the classroom within five years, according to figures compiled by the state Department of Education. However, those rates vary by district, with those at the top seeing 28 percent leave teaching while 47 percent do so in the most turnover-prone school systems.

Pay, tenure and teacher evaluations are other topics in the mix.

"It is really just to give a snapshot on what superintendents spend so much time thinking about," Baghian told the group. "The question is 'What do we view districts are responsible for?'"

Debbie Meaux, a commission member and president of the Louisiana Association of Educators, said she has concerns about districts being held accountable for operations they do not control, like private child care centers.

Others said district officials help shape the quality of child care operations because many of those youngsters will enter their schools.

Whether teacher quality, child care and the post-high school success of students would be part of letter grade calculations is unclear.

BESE would make that decision.

Judy Vail, a commission member and a Calcasieu Parish educator, said expanding district snapshots has some appeal.

"I think teachers are ready for it," Vail said. "I don't know if principals are ready for it."

State officials said a third measuring stick could focus on how students fare after high school

That could include those who earn TOPS scholarships or enter the state's Jump Start program to pursue industry certification for high-wage careers.

    

Follow Will Sentell on Twitter, @WillSentell.