Compromise where you can.

On Wednesday, October 18th, the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) considered a number of policy changes related to accountability as it pertains to the Every Student Succeeds Act. Among the policies considered was the manner in which a student’s scaled score contributes points to a school’s performance score.

Throughout the process of developing the ESSA plan, there was push back from groups representing various stakeholders such as parents, teachers, principals, superintendents, and school board, as well as the governor’s office. The main complaint being that Supt. White’s ESSA tour amounted to little more than a Q&A session, and offered no opportunity for meaningful input from stakeholders. On March 29th, prior to submitting the plan to USDOE, the BESE members passed a resolution requiring White to meet with stakeholders to address their concerns. A meeting did take place; however, only superintendents, principals and school boards were invited. Teacher organizations were excluded. In addition, only superintendents and principals were allowed to participate. The meeting participants felt one meeting wasn’t enough to discuss their concerns and had every intention of meeting a second time. Those plans were scrapped when White emailed the representatives of the groups the day before Easter to inform them that he had already submitted the plan. Real actual stakeholders were excluded from the entire process while nonprofit “social welfare” organizations wielded influence over decisions. 501(c)(4) organizations, by definition, have no membership, represent zero people, and only push agendas. The superintendent, school board, principal and teacher organizations are funded by membership dues and represent actual people who have a stake in the education system.

One of the items of concern was the manner in which individual student point contributions are determined. As submitted, the plan left a 30 pt gap in the index for “basic” and “mastery” which left no opportunity for a student, or school, to earn a B rating (see below). This discrepancy was brought up and discussed several times during the finalizing of the ESSA plan, but ignored.

In addition to creating a gap in the index, the distribution of points was shifted in a direction that makes it more difficult to earn points. Some schools that have been performing at the A level would experience frustration when they find themselves labeled as a B or C. On the other end of the spectrum, I suppose schools that persistently fail won’t feel so bad when schools that typically received a C or D find themselves labeled as F, as well. As submitted, the plan awarded 70 points for “Basic” and 100 points for “Mastery” and would cause approximately 124 schools to lose their A rating, and approximately 83 more schools to receive an F (see below).

The Louisiana Association of School Superintendents (LASS) deserves credit for being persistent. At the last Superintendent’s Advisory Council meeting, they proposed a change in the scores index. The plan was a collaboration of the LASS executive officers (Dr. Cade Brumley, Dr. Kelli Joseph, Hollis Milton, and Richie Strong) and several of the regional leaders. The alternative plan raise the points for “Basic” to 85 and “Mastery” to 110 points and would cause only 38 schools to lose their A rating and only 29 more to receive an F (see below).

Still a much too stringent index, this is considerably better than the plan that was submitted. As you might expect, the BESE members weren’t jumping out of their seats with joy in acceptance of the proposal; however, in a climate where consideration of stakeholder concerns are typically ignored and predetermined agendas are pushed through without a blink, I find it necessary to bring attention to a welcome turn of events.

Recognizing that the plan has room for improvement, BESE member Tony Davis offered an amendment to the original plan. Davis’ amendment did not reflect the index proposed by the superintendents and was met with two subsequent substitute motions. Despite a little squabbling among BESE members, an agreement was reached to raise the points awarded for “Basic” to 80 points while leaving “Mastery” at 100 points. This will still cause approximately 104 schools to lose their A rating and approximately 56 more schools to receive an F rating (see below).

By no means is this an excellent plan, but it is a tremendous improvement over the original plan. Much thanks goes to the superintendents who persisted and to BESE member Tony Davis who recognized the value in their input. A precedent has been set. Now, if we can just get BESE to recognize the value of the input of all stakeholders.

In the next post, I’ll talk about why the value of these changes depends heavily on the intended outcome.

2 thoughts on “Compromise where you can.”

  1. A compromise (subject) or to comprise (verb) each have different meanings depending on perspective.

    Both “cutting the baby in half” and this small adjustment in points awarded for basic, compromise higher and more important principles, in this immediate case the principles of fairness and equity in our struggle to retain a system of public education that best serves the needs of every child.

    In truth, Mr. Davis made no compromise. He offered a minor change that had no real effect other than to make himself appear beneficent without offending his corporate benefactors. When Mrs. Voitier offered her slightly better adjustment, the expected happened with a 7:4 vote against followed by a not-so-expected 8:3 vote for Davis’s offered with Mrs. Voitier consenting (if I’m not mistaken) Sad.

    I am wondering now how the Legislative Auditor’s review of charter renewals which points out that statute does not allow for this same numbers game to evaluate a charter’s eligibility, to affect this discussion. Evaluating students, teachers and schools based on a single high stakes standardized assessment is bad enough but at least everyone is judged by the same invalid set of test scores. White has conceived this SPS game so he can manipulate the outcomes. I would proffer that his breaking the law puts his position in jeopardy because the numbers he creates are used to determine, in part, where tax dollars go. That would seem to be misappropriation.

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