At a special meeting on Wednesday, the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) endorsed Louisiana’s draft plan to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, and directed the Louisiana Department of Education (LDE) to submit the plan to the U.S. Department of Education no earlier than April 15, 2017.

“Moving forward with the submission of our state’s plan for federal input is a critical step in ensuring that approval is received and policies are in place for the start of the 2017-18 school year,” said Dr. Gary Jones, BESE president. “This will provide clarity and consistency for families and educators prior to the start of school, as Louisiana continues on its track to higher standards and accountability measures.”

BESE further directed State Superintendent of Education John White, upon conclusion of the 30-day public comment period and in response to the public comments received, to incorporate the following into the draft plan:

  • Starting in 2018, school scores will be calculated using the system of points the plan currently establishes for 2025, except that “basic” on the LEAP, 18 on the ACT, and Silver on the WorkKeys should earn schools “C” level points, rather than “D” level points.
  • There should be no curve or forced distribution for letter grades starting in 2018.
  • The plan should establish a threshold lower than 100 out of 150 to attain a “A” grade in 2017-2018 and should include modest escalations of that threshold in 2022 and finally again 2025. Corresponding adjustments should be made at “B” and “C” levels.
  • Subgroup performance should be reported by percentile rankings in addition to academic performance; the plan should include a system of identifying low subgroup performance levels, including performance levels equivalent to D and F grades for that subgroup, as requiring “urgent intervention.”
  • For reporting purposes, the plan should include a commitment to reporting letter-grade equivalents for the achievement indices and growth indices within the school rating system.
  • Three percent of Title I funding should not be set aside for Direct Student Services but should be allocated to every district per the traditional Title I formula, provided that funds are spent in line with requirements for the supplemental course allocation. Furthermore, the LDE should study access to courses for students in low-income, rural, or struggling schools and may make recommendations in future years for intervention in schools failing to provide course access to students.
  • The LDE should study and consider the effect on student learning of no longer requiring Biology and U.S. History end-of-course examinations, presenting findings no later than the June 20-21, 2017, BESE Committee and Board meetings.
  • The Interests and Opportunities indicator should include a menu of means by which schools could demonstrate success; the LDE should convene school system administrators to develop the measures necessary to create this indicator.
  • Prior to submission of the final state plan for federal review, the LDE shall convene a discussion with diverse stakeholders, including representatives of civil rights, business and professional organizations representing educators, school boards and charter schools.

On July 1, 2017, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) replaces No Child Left Behind (NCLB) as the nation’s federal education law and it will take effect when the 2017-2018 school year begins. ESSA maintains the NCLB requirement that states, districts and schools maintain uniform measurement, reporting of results, and rating of schools. However, states and districts have greater discretion to design elements of the improvement systems under ESSA than what was previously dictated under NCLB.

State requirements under ESSA align with a number of positive changes Louisiana has already begun implementing, and do not necessitate a complete overhaul of the state’s existing plan for strengthening K-12 education. Louisiana’s strategy and the new federal law both emphasize:

  • raising expectations for teaching and learning;
  • increasing the quality of assessments and streamlining them to accurately measure student learning and maximize learning time;
  • investing in persistently struggling schools; and
  • measuring and rewarding academic growth for all students.

For the past year, BESE and the LDE staff have been meeting with a wide range of stakeholders, including parents, local superintendents, educators, and business and community groups, to get input on Louisiana’s ESSA implementation. The Department has conducted 136 meetings on the issue, and comments have been received from more than 200 organizations and more than 1,000 individuals.

“As the process moves ahead, we expect and encourage the dialogue with educators, parents, and all stakeholders to continue as we enter the policy development phase of implementation,” said Jones.

The Board’s decision to submit the plan for federal input represents the latest action in Louisiana’s ESSA implementation process; however no related policy actions have been considered by BESE to date. New or revised policies related to implementing the state’s ESSA plan would come to the Board for consideration in June 2017 at the earliest, and BESE members and the LDE will continue to work with stakeholders to refine the plan as necessary in the lead up to the rulemaking process.

Upon conclusion of the governor review and public comment period, and incorporation of amendments highlighted by BESE today, the plan would begin with the 2017-18 school year.

Additional background and detail on the ESSA implementation process in Louisiana, including the current draft plan, is available online at http://bese.louisiana.gov/meetings/agendas-materials.