Letter Grades for Schools Generates Discussion

At the January 4 meeting of the Lincoln Parish School Board (LPSB), Superintendent Danny Bell reported on the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education’s (BESE) plan to assign letter grades to schools.

See here the BESE press release on the plan.

BESE Sets Standards for Schools to Earn Letter Grades

Under the new system, a top-performing school with an SPS of 120 or above will earn an “A.” Schools that have an SPS below 65 will receive an “F.”

The score for earning a “D” will be adjusted upward in 2011-2012, when the minimum standard for the Academically Unacceptable label is raised to a 75.0.

Schools that meet their growth target will earn a plus (+) sign after their letter grade. However if a school declines from one year to the next, the letter grade will be followed by a minus (-) sign.

The letter grades will replace the state’s current “star” rating system and will go into effect this school year, which means schools will receive their first letter grades in October 2011, when School Performance Scores are released.

See here the enabling legislation, Act 718.

The report generated quite a bit of discussion at the LPSB meeting.

“Rather than a star rating system, it’s going to letter grades. Well, people are going to connect with what is an A, B, C,” said Bell.

Asked by board member Eddie Jones (district 2) what could be done, Bell said he would be adding support to the schools that were in the most need. Bell said that the leadership in the individual schools would have to analyze the data and see where the deficiencies are and act accordingly.

Director of Instruction and Personnel Mary Null noted that students in every grade are being “bench-marked” and then analyzed quarterly to see if progress is being made.

Joe Mitchum (district 6) asked, “How do you think parents are going to perceive these grades? The majority of our (Lincoln parish) schools may be in the “C” range – what are their (the parents) options?”

Bell said there will likely be a lot of “C” schools in the beginning, but that the letter grades will provide goals to work toward and the district would just have to do what it takes to make progress.

Likely these type discussions are taking place in school boards all over the state. See here a news story in The (Baton Rouge) Advocate on the subject.

Rigor wins out in bid to grade public schools

The issue focused on how tough the state would be in its first bid to grade about 1,300 public schools.

It is sure to trigger comments, especially when the first round of “D’s” and “F’s” come out in the fall.

A change that went through the Legislature almost unnoticed might prove to be the biggest public school law of 2010.

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