How the state tentatively plans to grade Louisiana’s revamped pre-K classes has “serious flaws” that need attention, two influential education groups said Monday morning.
The proposed grading plan fails to spell out how programs can be improved, relies too heavily on a single grade to judge quality and lacks guarantees needed for the fairnes of the reviews, according to the report.
The study was released by the Policy Institute for Children, which advocates for children, and Education’s Next Horizon, a statewide non-profit group that advocates for improvements in public education.
The changes are supposed to replace a pre-K setup that critics say is plagued by inequities in funding and quality and one that is confusing to parents.
The new rules include early performance guidelines for children from infants to age 3; academic standards for 3- and 4-year-olds and report cards that grade the sites.
The state is also setting up early childhood networks that include child care, Head Start and pre-K classes in public schools and private schools that get public dollars.
The changes take effect for the 2015-16 school year.
State Superintendent of Eduation John White said his agency welcomes the input, and he noted that public roundtable discussions start on April 13 at seven locations statewide, including Baton Rouge, Metairie and Lafayette.
The state Department of Education plans to issue report cards that measure two areas.
One would focus on teacher-child interactions, according to the report.
The other would measure the aggregated scores of all programs in a network.
However, the report said no other state relies on a single grade to measure how students and teachers are faring.
“While teacher-child interaction is one important measure of quality, it must be combined with other critical markers of quality to be effective means to achieve improved child outcomes,” the study says.
It also says the state has failed to ensure that indpendent, third-party assessors will handle the review of how students and teachers are faring and that the proposed, seven-point grading scale is flawed.
The two groups said it is unclear how the the costs of those assessments will be handled, which they estimated will total $875 per classroom per year.
Such charges are a “huge financial lift for both programs and networks if they are expected to assume the costs.”
How to pay for the pre-K overhaul has been a recurring topic.
The legislation, which is known as Act 3, breezed through the Legislature three years ago.
However, it did not include funds to finance the new system.
State officials said that, in 2012, Louisiana spent $346 million for seven state and federal pre-K programs.
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