Now that school report cards have been released by the Louisiana Department of Education, educators across the state are tasked with explaining to parents and stakeholders how there is more to letter grades than meets the eye.
This year marks a seismic shift as the state raises the academic bar and ups the ante on how schools and districts are graded or measured. Though the increased rigor is aimed at making our children more competitive with their counterparts nationally, tougher standards will make it more difficult to attain and retain an ‘A’ letter grade.
In an effort to help interpret the changes, the state is issuing three letter grades. One will reflect a school or district’s 2016-17 overall performance rating under the old formula; another will show the 2017-18 letter grade using the new grading scale; and the third will show the score that would have been earned last year under the previous formula.
Take Bossier Schools, for example, which received an ‘A’ rating last year. Using the previous grading formula, our district would not only have maintained its ‘A’ letter grade, but would have also increased its 2017-18 district performance score. Under the new grading rubric, however, 13 of the 17 school districts around the state with A’s last year are receiving B’s, including Bossier Parish. That reflects a 76-percent drop in the number of A-rated schools in Louisiana.
The same formula applies to school letter grades, yet let me stress there is plenty of good news to tout as 24 Bossier Parish schools retained the same grade as the previous year, and eight of 11 schools maintained their ‘A’ status. That is highly commendable.
Other bright spots to be pointed out are 13 were named Top Gains Schools; 18 received an ‘A’ if student growth alone was measured; the graduation rate across the district improved and was deemed an ‘A;’ and six schools were named Equity Honorees for efforts made to help struggling students and schools achieve.
The eight schools that went down a letter grade showed growth as well, and only dropped because of the new accountability system. Although a change in the grading formula was out of these schools’ control, what is within their control is growth and students showed improvement. For a complete list of school and district performance scores, as well as early childhood centers, click here and follow the prompts.
Make no mistake, Bossier Parish students are thriving and our district is steadily striving to further improve their educational outcomes. Do we have work to do? Absolutely, and Bossier Schools began making tweaks and fine tuning well before the academic year began.
Yes, school accountability is a moving target and there is more to letter grades than meets the eye; but at Bossier Schools, we readily accept the challenge and have our sights set on being the highest performing school district in the state. Stay tuned and see.
Scott Smith, Bossier Schools Superintendent