LA Key Academy: Divine Intervention?

Whether you are an active participant in the fight to save public education, or a casual observer, you are probably aware that since the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act, the Louisiana school accountability system has been under scrutiny.

On Tuesday, December 6th, BESE held meetings to consider renewal or revocation of poor performing charter schools. The policy regarding charter school performance is really quite simple. Schools that don’t meet the State’s expectation of growth, during the course of their charter, are extended a probationary period to demonstrate that they can, in fact, improve performance. There were many schools to be considered for renewal with varying levels of performance; most of which, were renewed. Under scrutiny, and what became a heated discussion, was the recommendations for three schools that had already received a probationary period. Superintendent White’s recommendation, for two of the schools, was to not renew. The third school, LA Key Academy, was recommended for an extension in its probationary period. This was a recommendation from White that did not “follow the rules,” and this drew opposition from attendees, particularly the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools and other education reform groups, including LABI, CABL and Stand For Children. Their concern was related to the apparent politically driven decision to make an exception for LA Key Academy. The charter school was founded by Dr. Laura Cassidy, wife of Senator Bill Cassidy. The reform groups’ opposition was insisting that the policy be followed in the strictest sense and applied across the board. This, in itself, is odd. These reform groups, along with Supt. White, rarely follow policy and always game the system to their advantage.

All of this discussion created a discord among BESE, who at some point appeared to be poised to object to the extension to the point that it was deemed necessary to have an LDOE attorney opine as to whether, or not, they are required to follow policy, or allowed to go against the superintendent’s recommendation. In the end, the decision was deferred to January. Before I get into why this all mattered so much to those involved, let me talk more about LA Key Academy.

LA Key Academy was founded by Dr. Laura Cassidy, and along with only six other charter schools, is designated as having a “special mission.” I have expressed in previous blogs that I believe that charters with “special missions” should be the only charters that exist; however, in Louisiana, we have an abundance of charters that merely replicate the public school setting. Regarding LA Key Academy, the school’s mission is to serve students who suffer extensively from dyslexia. In general, public school teachers have relatively little training in this condition, and students with this disability are often, if not always, underserved. Every person on staff at LA Key Academy is trained in the area of dyslexia, interventions to dyslexia and tools that improve coping skills for students with dyslexia.

After being told about the happenings at the BESE meeting, I tried, without success, to contact LA Key Academy to see if they could confirm my suspicions about the situation. Late last night, a parent with a child attending LA Key Academy initiated contact with me. In reflecting on the communications with the parent, and realizing what is really happening, I’ve decided that the meetings on Tuesday were a divine intervention.

I want to take this opportunity to talk about what is not being discussed in the public forum.

  • Parents of children at LA Key Academy are overwhelmingly satisfied with the services provided by the school, and support a renewal.
  • The supports and interventions being provided in the classroom setting have led to large amounts of progress for individual students.
  • The supports and interventions being provided in the classroom setting are not extended to statewide assessments.
  • Approximately 90% of the students at LA Key Academy were “Opted-Out” of the state assessment, by their parents.

Two years ago, at the same time that the legislative session was underway, a movement was taking place across the state to opt-out children out of taking the PARCC test. You may remember that Calcasieu parish had the largest number of opt-outs in the state. I recall a conversation with one of the people who led that movement, and she stated that while on the phone with someone at the State Capitol, she was asked if she would mind speaking to Dr. Cassidy. Once on the phone Cassidy began to ask about the opt-out movement, and what she needed to do. She stated that she wanted to opt-out her whole school.

Obviously, Dr. Cassidy understands the effect that the standardized assessment would have on the students her school serves. I don’t know how many students actually opted-out, that year, but as I stated above, approximately 90% did, this year. I tend to believe that there weren’t many the previous year, and Supt. White wasn’t expecting the large number. So, the question to ask is does LA Key’s SPS score reflect those opt-outs, or is this actual performance of the students who tested. I believe it reflects the opt-outs. The next question is why aren’t these facts being discussed publicly? I believe I have the answer.

LABI, CABL and Stand are reform groups that favor privatization. There has not been one ounce of proof that their agenda benefits children. They adhere to the belief that teachers are bad, test scores are the only measure of a school’s success, and the ability to quickly replace a staff, or close a school is the best way to improve performance. This is their motivation for adhering to the policy. On the other hand, White’s hands are tied. He can’t sanction the students or parents for exercising their right to opt-out. If he acknowledges that the SPS derived from the test scores is not representative of the REAL improvements that the school is making, then he essentially acknowledges that the accountability system is an invalid measurement of school performance. Furthermore, the admission of any of the above mentioned facts would essentially set a precedent for future considerations. Not good when you depend on this rigid accountability system to achieve your goal.

I fully support the renewal of LA Key’s charter for the good work that it does. This is a very real opportunity for us to press for an accountability system that truly measures how a school serves its students that include a reflection of parent student satisfaction and the individual successes of student despite the inability to master a standardized test.

2 thoughts on “LA Key Academy: Divine Intervention?”

  1. This is ridiculous. If we drove the same automobile that was first invented today we would have not evolved in that arena. So why do continue to use the traditional school classroom and curriculums that fail many of our kids.

    The reason the school got a F is because standardized testing was used. The equivalent of putting diesl in a regular gasoline tank.

    I suggest an article on every time confrence time comes around and public school teachers tell parents I dont know what else to do, majority of parents with dyslexia that dont have a alternate agenda (unions) will tell you the same story, teachers stare at you after your child has had intervention at the highest level available and say I dont know what to do.

    Administration then when you go to take your child out miraculously tells you how they are showing some improvement in a panic of the child disenrolling taking thier styphen of monies from the schools budget. My son repeated grades until I woke up in a nuro psychologist office that was telling me he can go to 2nd grade 1000 times if they teach him the same way he will not progress. If your child did well with intervention, im happy for you.

    My son deserves a education as well I cant afford Brighton dyslexia private school. Equal is not always the same. Children deserve a equal chance at a education it may not look the same for each child. To say that then children will be turned away from public schools is a false narrative both types of schools can coexisit.

    I have a 3rd grader at Zachary Elementary and a third grader at LKA. My son hated school had meltdowns, felt ashamed, this is the same story for dyslexic children in traditional school. When they are placed in a school teaching in thier learning language they flourish and learn.

    My son has progressed remarkably and for a replYou look each parent at LKA in the face and tell them thier chikdren have gotten a F level of education from LKA.

    We will tell you that is false, we spend everyday with our kids, we drive to ensure they get there, we are not disengaged parents allowing the state to spoon feed a F level of education to our kids. We are involved, we know if they are progressing. Measure LKA with an appropriate frame work to assess for that style of education.

    Spend the time learning and getting informed from medical experts from child nuero psychologist.

    Talk to the involved parents to see if the grade matches the true progress of the students. Common sense says you cant measure this schools progress with a standardized test. As a former corrections officer I can tell you that when there was no alternatives for these kids they ended up in trouble if parents did not have resources to get them proper education. These kids are at a higher risk of drug use, crime etc.

    So Lousiana look at the big picture, impact these kids and you will see the benefits in the crime rate, drug epidemic and overall community quality.

    I ask Louisiana stop wishing for better standard of living in Baton Rouge i.e. lower crime, higher tourism, higher property values. This does not happen in a vaccum, it happens by investing in our kids, it takes action, alternatives, progression in our education programs to address all our kids needs.

    If we continue to fail the kids that cant afford private school understand that it will impact your family as well, you cant live in a bubble. The kid at Catholic high will impact the community negatively or positvely just as a kid at LKA will or another child at a low performing school. With crime rates rising we can bigger jails and spend more tax payer money on crime, drug rehabs, welfare programs or wake up to the that fact Baton Rouge education failures will impact us all …..no matter our neighborhood or community we live in.

    Im not worried about teacher unions or politics, Im worried about our kids. If public schools offered a internal all day not sporadiac mini session intervention that worked on these kids well great, but until then dont send these kids down the road of statistical nightmares that will await them. Wake up Louisiana fight for a better state, for our future, which is our kids, all our kids not just the ones with the resources, break this cycle.

    Let the school council know even if your child is not dyslexic that you support LKA and its children, that you demand they measure thier progress using a correct frame work and that you want LKA to thrive and grow. #BatonRougeStandsWithLKA

    1. This is my daughters first semester at La Key, also coming from the Zachary School District where the would not even test my daughter for dsylexia because she wasn’t in 2nd grade yet intervention was no help. I couldn’t agree more with everything you just said!

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