The state should put a moratorium on issuing letter grades for public schools and other accountability measures because of the flood and its aftermath, some education leaders said Thursday.
"My thought would be to suspend accountability for the year," said Michael Faulk, superintendent of the highly-rated Central Community School District, which suffered huge damages in the avalanche of rain and flooding that began Aug. 11.
Schools in Central will have been closed for 16 days when classes resume on Tuesday.
"When you look at the magnitude of the storms hitting this state and you try to continue with the accountability system are you truly measuring academic achievement?" Faulk asked.
Public schools and districts get annual school performance scores from the state based on how students performed on key tests.
Those scores translate into a letter grade, a much-anticipated announcement that has a big impact on how parents and other taxpayers view districts and individual schools.
Education leaders say annual letter grades are vital to letting the public know how schools are faring.
Initially schools in 29 parishes faced damages in the south Louisiana flooding, with the Central, East Baton Rouge, Livingston and Ascension systems among those that faced the biggest upheaval.
Livingston Parish Superintendent Rick Wentzel echoed Faulk's comments.
"I tend to agree with Mike a little bit," Wentzel.
The district, which is set to resume classes on Sept. 12, will have missed 20 days of school, while some students face end-of-course exams in December.
The Livingston Parish school system may be the lone district in the state that easily qualifies for a waiver on accountability measures.
Under state law, districts that miss 18 consecutive school days can be classified as a "severe impact" district, which means no school performance scores or letter grades.
Those that have enrollment fluctuations of 25 percent by Oct. 1 can get the same waiver.
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Brian LeJeune, president of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents, said how accountability will work this year needs to be addressed with officials of the state Department of Education.
"Superintendents and school boards really need to have a conversation with the department and come up with something we can all live with," said LeJeune, who is superintendent of the Jefferson Davis School District in southwest Louisiana.
He said up to 100,000 students in the most impacted districts are affected.
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Accountability is important, LeJeune said, but lots of families are fighting for life's necessities.
"Getting them back in school is a good thing," he said. "But many times they are not ready until everything becomes normal."
Any moratorium on public school letter grades and other rules would have to be approved by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
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"If there is a legitimate reason to make some accommodations I think we would be willing to do that," said Jim Garvey, president of BESE.
"But you have to balance that with the parents right to know how their schools are doing, even in a year when there is some unusual stuff going on," he said.
"And I think everybody is ready to talk about the issue when we get the final details," Garvey said. "But we have plenty of time."
Scott Devillier, superintendent of the top-rated Zachary School District, said he understands the problems of school systems that got the most damage, including Central, East Baton Rouge, Livingston and Ascension.
Devillier said he would have no problem if certain districts got waivers on accountability rules.
A spokeswoman for Ascension Parish Superintendent David Alexander said there have been no discussions on accountability.
Classes in his district, which like Livingston schools are highly rated, were closed for 11 days.
A spokeswoman for the East Baton Rouge Parish School District did not return a message for comment.