In regards to the recent Board of Elementary and Secondary Education meeting whereby Louisiana’s federal education plan (Every Student Succeeds Act) was considered, and, in response to the assertions by some that the request to delay and substantively revise the ESSA Plan was made by failing school districts, we feel we must set the record straight with facts.
The 2016 scores in Louisiana provide that of the 69 school districts run by elected school boards 41 (59%) received a letter grade of either A (15) or B (26) with another 21 receiving a letter grade of C. Only 7 received a letter grade of D and 0 were graded as an F. RSD-BR and RSD-LA, administered by the state board, were awarded grades of D and F respectively.
Sixty-one of the 69 local superintendents requested that BESE/LDOE hold off submitting the State ESSA plan. Of those 61 were superintendents of 14 of the 15 A districts and 23 of the 26 B districts and 17 of the 21 C districts. The notion that the requests came from failing districts is fundamentally untrue. Interestingly, of the only 8 districts that did not seek a delay, only 1 was an A, only 3 were B’s, and 4 were C’s. Additionally, over 90% of principals from across the state requested a delay and revision of the state ESSA Plan.
What this evidences is that the proposed ESSA Plan is universally opposed by school districts from across the entire letter grade spectrum and by the principals who run our schools, day in and day out. Why we would move forward with a proposal objected to by the most successful local superintendents in the state and the superintendents in some of the most challenging districts in the state is a mystery. The 61 superintendents and massive number of principals who urged further work on the ESSA plan have decades of education training and experience, yet Louisiana has opted to move forward with a plan crafted by a few people with little, if any, experience in operating a public school or school district. The primary proponents were bureaucrats and lobbyists who have no significant real-world education experience.
The comment of BESE member and former President James Garvey that the accountability system that he presided over for years and continues to control is a lie, is, frankly, shocking. Of note, BESE recently ignored its own accountability system when it renewed a charter school, despite the school having years of F letter grades. The rationale for ignoring the school’s F was that the accountability system under-rewarded the success of the school. But, when it comes to traditional public schools BESE asserts that it has been over-rewarding schools and school districts. The hypocrisy is hard to explain.
The LSBA will continue to speak for the 700,000 public school students, their parents/voters, and the education professionals tasked with navigating whatever maze of obstacles special interests place in the way of public education. Ultimately, meeting the needs of the parents/voters within each local school district is the goal of each elected school board member. If overcoming the politics and bureaucracy that BESE/LDOE represent is the task, so be it.
Scott M. Richard
Louisiana School Boards Association