Gov. John Bel Edwards questioned the value of public school letter grades, criticized how teachers are evaluated and said he has concerns about a newly-approved overhaul in teacher training.
The governor made his comments to a joint meeting of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents and the Louisiana Association of School Executives.
Letter grades and other key public school policies are undergoing reviews by the state Department of Education and a rival panel named by Edwards, which is set to make its initial recommendations next month.
Edwards said labels assigned to public schools and districts are "not that fair." He said he has long questioned the value of the grades since, years ago, a school his children attended in Amite that provided top-flight education was rated "F."
"That has colored my perspective," said Edwards, a former member of the House Education Committee.
Louisiana public schools and districts are assigned school performance scores, and corresponding letter grades, based mostly on how students fare on key tests. Results of this year's performance are set to be released later this month.
Controversy began brewing Monday on how far the state should go to revamp the way long-debat…
Backers contend the marks give parents and other taxpayers an easy way to see how schools are doing. But the governor said a study done by the University of Colorado concluded that the grades only reflect the level of poverty in schools.
How grades are calculated is one of the key topics of an ongoing state review of public school policies.
In another area, the governor disputed a key premise behind annual teacher evaluations.
Part of how teachers are evaluated is linked to the growth of student performance.
Edwards, who made his comments Monday, questioned how exams can be used to both measure student achievement and shed valid light on teacher performance. "So we just need to restore common sense to what we are doing," he said.
The annual reviews, which have sparked controversy for years, have been advisory only in recent years during the state's move to tougher academic standards.
Stephen Waguespack, president of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, criticized Edwards' comments.
Waguespack, a former top aide to ex-Gov. Bobby Jindal, said under former Govs Mike Foster, Kathleen Blanco and Jindal "the state has been on a 20-year march to reform our education system."
"I worry that in recent months we are starting to reverse that, and I think it is a big problem," he said.
In a third area, the governor said he has concerns about a new teacher training policy approved last month by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
In a sweeping change, Louisiana's top school board Tuesday voted to overhaul the ways teache…
Under the new rules, prospective teachers will have to spend one year in the classroom, working with a veteran teacher mentor, before they meet degree requirements. That is more than double the current benchmarks.
Backers say the change will address concerns from many teachers that they were ill-prepared for the classroom.
Edwards said that, while additional preparation makes sense, the plan may cause students to pursue other degrees and enter the classroom through easier paths, such as alternative certification.
The growing alternative certification movement allows undergraduate holders who want to teach to earn a certificate in 12-18 months from universities or organizations.
He said costs of the overhaul are another worry, a comment echoed by other critics of the new policy.
Backers say the changes can be done for $7.5 million in the first three years and that $67 million in federal grants and other assistance is also available.
Edwards also downplayed his differences with state Superintendent of Education John White, who he vowed to replace during his 2015 bid for governor.
The governor said White, who works for BESE, is working in good faith to help students.
However, Edwards said there are sometimes "fundamental differences" with the superintendent that have to be hashed out.
White's department is in the midst of a nearly year-long review of school policies sparked by a federal law called the Every Student Succeeds Act.
Edwards named his own advisory panel to do a review, sparking predictions that the two would clash on possible changes in letter grade calculations and other issues.
He said he expects agreement on the two studies in some areas.
"I don't believe we are fundamentally opposed," the governor said of his panel and the department review. "We are not fighting this big war."
Edwards praised public school gains, including the state's 77.5 percent high school graduation rate and a 3.5 percent improvement among black students.