In an effort to mask the failure of the so-called education reform movement, Louisiana finds itself with a school performance evaluation system that just doesn’t add up

For more than 15 years, we have been saying that the manner in which the state Education Department has been evaluating public schools is intentionally skewed, distorted and, well, a lie.

We watched not so silently as accountability measures were changed to facilitate the post-Katrina takeover of public schools in Orleans Parish by the corporate-driven fake reform movement, then changed again, and again to hide the failure of the very same reform movement.

We have been exhausted by the refusals of the state legislature, the state Department of Education and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to own up to the wrong they have done—namely the decimation of public education in Orleans Parish and the proliferation of charter schools in our community.

Oh, and we have demanded that our schools return to local control—all to no avail.

Since 2005, it has been madness—pure insanity!

The Math Ain’t Mathin’

Wait, is that a glimmer of light we see shining through the chaotic darkness?

Perhaps . . . finally . . . maybe . . . just maybe, the right folk are starting to realize that there are too many questions and not nearly enough answers as it relates to the state of public education in Orleans Parish and across the state.

We find this sliver of hope in the fact that next week on Aug. 23, the BESE board is set debate a proposal that would overhaul the state’s school accountability system, with a specific focus on the measures used to rate public high schools across Louisiana.

This all came about after the analysis conducted by study group, convened by BESE to look at how schools are rated, simply could no longer hide the fact that some things just don’t seem to add up.

For instance, how can 70 percent of the public high schools in Louisiana be rated “A” or “B” even as the average ACT score for Louisiana’s public high school students is 18—below what is considered an indication of college readiness? If 70 percent of public high schools in the state were actually performing at levels between “good” and “excellent”, then there should be no way that the average ACT score of the state’s public high school students is nearly three points lower than the national average composite score.

Or how is it that only 37 percent of high school students are mastering content on the state’s high-stakes exam, LEAP, when 70 percent of high schools are supposedly “A” and “B” schools? You do see how that just doesn’t make sense, right? If all of these schools were doing as well as the state’s annual evaluation suggests, then a far greater percentage of students should be mastering LEAP’s English, math, science and social studies content.

There are something like 420 or so public high schools in Louisiana, and according to current accountability standards 70 percent of them—nearly 300 of them—are “A” and “B” schools. If that is real, then why on God’s green earth do we have one of the lowest graduation rates (around 85 percent) in the country? If 300 of the public high schools in this state were actually “A” and “B” schools, then there is no way that 9.6 percent of Louisiana’s youth between the ages of 16 and 24 would be dropouts, considered disconnected because they are not enrolled in school or a part of the state’s workforce.

That math ain’t mathin’, y’all!

Yes, we know that last sentence was a grammatical disaster. Hey, what do you expect? We’re in Louisiana, where public schools were rated the third-worst in the entire nation based on a recent state-by-state analysis by Wallet Hub, which examined academic outcomes, school finance, school performance, funding, safety, class size, and instructor credentials to determine its rankings. Yep, the same Louisiana where supposedly 70 percent of the public high schools are “A” and “B” rated schools. Go figure . . .

It is Time

Doesn’t make sense, right? Wrong.

It all absolutely makes all of the sense in the world if we would collectively admit that state’s academic performance standards have been bastardized to cover up a failed reform movement driven by money and power.

Of course, admitting that would then require changing the standards to actually reflect real performance expectations and measures when it comes to academic progress of our children. Admitting that would mean the state could no longer play games and make allowances and excuses in order to keep alive the lie that the corporate-driven reform movement is working or ever worked.

Realigning the standards would probably run just about every charter school out of the state.

Telling the truth might even force the state of Louisiana to return public education in New Orleans to real local control.

Good, then. It is time for all of those things to happen. We’ve known for a very long time that there was no miracle in New Orleans.

It’s time to set real performance standards and hold every public and publicly-funded school in the state of Louisiana accountable for meeting them.

It’s way beyond time to end this sham of a reform movement.

It’s time to return public education to local control in Orleans Parish.

It’s time to set this state on a course that leads to quality educational outcomes—the kind that improves lives—for every public school student in Louisiana, regardless of race or socio-economic background.

We hope that when BESE meets next week, its members are committed to doing what is right by moving forward with an accurate and valid overhaul of the state’s school performance system, despite those that would have them do otherwise. And while there are glaring issues at the high-school level, we say this overhaul should also apply to public elementary, middle and junior high schools across the state as well. We are certain a fair number of them have “A”, “B”, and even “C” ratings they don’t deserve.

We are hopeful; but given the state’s track record on public education, we won’t count it.

The New Orleans Tribune

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