An influential state panel Monday spent more time wrestling with how to change public school report cards, including the all-important issue of rewarding annual academic gains.
The effort is part of the state's plan to revamp public school policies to comply with a 2015 federal law called the Every Student Succeeds Act.
The topic was debated by the Louisiana Accountability Commission, which advises the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
A key state panel Tuesday grappled with how to revamp the way often-controversial letter gra…
Under current rules, the growth of student achievement accounts for 7 percent of scores that translate into grades, and only applies to struggling students. State Superintendent of Education John White has proposed that the growth account for 25 percent of the score, and have it apply to all students.
The issue is important because grades assigned to public schools and districts play a huge role in how they are viewed by the public. Before state leaders agree on a percentage, they have to reach a consensus on how to measure annual academic gains.
Louisiana's long-controversial public school letter grades, like the ones issued last week, …
Under a new plan unveiled for the commission, student growth would be measured by whether students meet or exceed annual benchmarks toward reaching the state's new academic target for schools to earn A ratings.
However, the controversial part would allow schools to earn points even if students failed to meet targets, as long as they exceeded the growth of their peers.
Backers called the proposed measuring stick simple to understand for parents, educators and others.
Kelli Joseph, superintendent of the St. Helena School District and a member of the panel, said the change would allow educators to have meaningful conversations with students and parents on where they stand in reaching the second of five achievement levels, called mastery.
Debbie Meaux, another commission member and president of the Louisiana Association of Educators, said she likes having two potential sources of academic growth -- meeting or exceeding annual targets, or doing better than peers.
Others said the new rules would make it too easy for schools to enhance their grades by earning extra points, distorting how schools are actually faring.
Brigitte Nieland, a panel member who follows public school issues for the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, said the gains would allow extra points even with low test scores.
Stephanie Desselle, who tracks public school issues for the Council for a Better Louisiana, raised similar concerns.
Jessica Baghian, assistant state superintendent for assessment and accountability, said the advantage of the two-prong approach is to allow low-achieving students, and those with disabilities, to earn points who would otherwise be unlikely to meet annual academic growth targets.
During public testimony, Brian LeJeune, president of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents, was complimentary of the two-prong approach to measuring student gains. LeJeune is superintendent of the Jefferson Davis School District in southwest Louisiana.
Kathy Noel, a DeSoto Parish school system educator and chairwoman of the commission, said her goal Monday was to narrow the list of options, not make any final decisions.
Two other plans to measure the growth of student achievement are also under review by the panel.
State officials are supposed to provide simulations to commission members to show details of how the new rules would work compared to current policies.
The commission is set to meet again on Jan. 9.