The state should consider scrapping the annual issuance of letter grades for public schools, a task force named by Gov. John Bel Edwards decided Thursday.
The action, which would require a change in state law, will be part of the panel's recommendations for school changes as part of a plan to comply with a 2015 federal law called the Every Student Succeeds Act.
Backers said letter grades need review because the state is making other changes in how public schools will be rated.
"We are going to ask for a new system, which would require a change in state law," said Thomas E. Spencer, chairman of the Governor's Advisory Council on the Every Student Succeeds Act.
The recommendation represents a sharp difference with a proposed state plan unveiled last year by state Superintendent of Education John White.
White wants to more than triple the value of annual student academic growth in the calculations. But he has not recommended any changes in letter grades, which took effect in 2011.
Louisiana's long-controversial public school letter grades, like the ones issued last week, …
Backers say the grades allow parents and others an easy way to see how students and schools are faring.
But Edwards is a longtime critic of the grading system, and his panel has numerous officials who have criticized letter grades for years.
Opponents call the grades misleading.
Any push to change the law would spark fierce arguments.
Debra Schum, executive director of the Louisiana Association of Principals and a member of the council, said today's system needs review because the state is making other changes that will alter the meaning of letter grades.
The marks are based mostly on how students fare on key tests.
How to revamp public school letter grades continues to spark controversy, including charges …
In addition, annual academic growth for some students accounts for 7 percent of the school performance scores, which are then linked to an A, B, C D or F.
White proposed increasing that to 25 percent of the score and have it apply to all students, which means yearly gains will play a bigger role in the final assessment.
Schum said that means one school could get a C rating even if one third of its students performed below grade level, provided it showed big gains from the previous year.
She said a second school, where up to 80 percent of students were on grade level, could get the same grade if it showed little academic growth.
"There will be a different picture of what a letter grade means," Schum told the panel. "It doesn't mean we don't hold people accountable."
Schum said the state could consider a new rating system where schools are labeled as highly commendable, commendable and other descriptions.
Debbie Meaux, president of the Louisiana Association of Educators and a member of the council, said debate continues on the role of yearly growth in the new assessment system.
The Louisiana Accountability Commission, which met earlier this week, is grappling with the same topic and will do so again on Feb. 8.
Meaux said any new rating system should include more factors than just test scores, such as school safety.
"Parents are misled if they only look at the SPS," she said, a reference to school performance scores that drive the current grading system.
The recommendation, as well as earlier suggestions, could put the council, and the governor, on a collision course with White and the state Department of Education.
The superintendent hopes to submit the state plan to Edwards next month, and the governor has 30 days to review it.
He can sign off on the outline, sign it with reservations or object to the proposal.
Meanwhile, the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is tentatively set to act on a state plan at its March meeting.
If approved it could be submitted to the U. S. Department of Education in April in hopes of having changes in place for the 2017-18 school year.
In another twist, the governor's panel Thursday also said it wants to slow the process and aim for implementation for the 2018-19 school year.
A panel named by Gov. John Bel Edwards recommended major changes in public school policies T…
The council last month recommended an overhaul in teacher evaluations, less science testing and a reversal of state plans to raise academic standards.
All three points are at odds with White's proposal.