Louisiana's plan to revamp public schools won mostly favorable comments Thursday from a national independent group, the third organization to praise the outline.
The Thomas B. Fordham Institute reviewed proposals by 16 states and the District of Columbia on how to rework public school policies to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.
The state got strong marks in two categories but was rated weak in a third area -- the role of annual growth in student achievement in rating school performance.
The proposal was praised in its focus on all students, not just low-performers, and for having an easy to understand school rating system.
"Louisiana's plan is pretty good in general," Brandon Wright, one of the authors of the report, said in an interview.
"In at least two ways it is great," Wright said. "But it is kind of dragged down by the lack of focus on growth."
The Fordham Institute is an education research group in Washington, D. C.
The blueprint, which was approved by the state's top school board on March 29, is under review by the U. S. Department of Education.
After a marathon hearing, the state's top school board Wednesday night approved state Superi…
State officials expect an answer from federal officials in August and have said they have been encouraged by the initial feedback.
Top officials of the state Department of Education said Thursday they are encouraged by the …
The federal law is aimed in part at states finding ways to improve student achievement for students from low-income families, and a huge percentage of Louisiana public school students fit that description.
Under current rules, the annual growth of student scores counts for 7 percent of the score linked to the school's letter grade.
However, it only applies to struggling students.
Under the plan, which was pushed by state Superintendent of Education John White, annual achievement gains will count for 25 percent of the score, and apply to all students.
Wright said the state's proposal was faulted because his group believes annual academic growth should count for more, ideally 50 percent.
The issue sparked controversy during state debate on the blueprint.
Opponents of a higher percentage said it would distort how public schools are faring by putting too much weight on academic gains, not actual achievement.
Wright said students from low-income families often start school behind their peers from wealthier families.
State accountability systems should put a heavy emphasis on the day-to-day impact teachers are having on students, he said.
"Growth is really the one thing that accurately demonstrates that progress, especially in grades K-8," Wright said.
Sydni Dunn, press secretary for the state Department of Education, said while officials were pleased by the positive comments in two areas they were frustrated to be rated "weak" on plans for measuring academic growth.
"While 25 percent may be low in the opinion of the Fordham Institute, the addition of a growth indicator is a significant shift for Louisiana," Dunn said in an email.
The group's one-page profile praised the state's use of letter grades to rate public schools.
Doing so, it says, "immediately conveys to all observers how well a given school is performing."
The review linked Louisiana's plan to the one submitted by Massachusetts, which is rare because Massachusetts is often ranked among the top-performing states for public school achievement.
"Louisiana's and Massachusetts's plans are also laudable in multiple ways, receiving two strong grades and one weak," according to the report.
"They both propose to use clear and intuitive annual school ratings and encourage schools to focus on students across the achievement spectrum," it says. "Yet a low emphasis on growth means that neither is sufficiently fair to high-poverty schools."
Last month Louisiana's ESSA plan was generally praised by the Collaborative for Student Success and Bellwether Education Plans, which also rated all 17 proposals submitted to federal officials in April.