In his Aug. 6 guest column, Professor Douglas Harris of Tulane and the Educational Research Alliance for New Orleans says Louisiana’s public school accountability system is faulty and based on poor assumptions.

He’s exactly right.

He says there’s a difference between standards and accountability. He’s right there, too.

Today’s school accountability program is nothing like the one originally planned during the Mike Foster administration. That one was pretty much like the one Harris envisioned. There were no letter grades; each school competed only with itself as it worked toward a statewide standard, and was held accountable for its own achievements.

The panel that developed the accountability program started by learning from existing programs in four other states. It cherry-picked their best ideas and added a few of it’s own — all in open sessions covered by reporters from The Times-Picayune and the Advocate. The final product was considered the best in the nation by Education Week magazine.

I’m proud to say I represented Louisiana’s school boards on that panel, which also had teachers, principals, legislators, BESE members, businesspeople, and public-interest groups like PAR and CABL on it.

It was never fully in place, partly because of politics and other priorities. When Bobby Jindal became governor and his Board of Elementary and Secondary Education hired a man with almost no teaching experience as the state’s superintendent it fell completely apart.

“Grading” schools is a terrible idea to begin with. No school has the same student population; every school faces it’s own unique challenges in its own unique environment. Only by setting a statewide standard and measuring each school’s growth (or lack of it) can its teachers and administrators be held accountable. Someone needs to dig out the original plan, dust it off, and try it again.

RUSS WISE

former St. John Parish School Board member

LaPlace

Doug Harris: Let's make accountability work for better schools, with fairer measures