Parents, Administrators React to New Letter Grade System | Southern Education Desk
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Louisiana’s new grading system for schools and districts is being rolled out this week.
Letter grades replace stars as performance indicators; reaction to the new system is mixed.
Jana Stephens has two school-aged children: a daughter in seventh grade, and a son in kindergarten.
She says the new grading system may make it easier for busy parents to understand how their child’s school is performing.
And Stephens feels the updated ranking method could make for better organization.
“Schools are not restaurants or hotels. So I think it’ll be better for schools to be graded. Children get grades, their schools need to get grades. You know, our schools need to be graded so it’s all kept in that same system so everybody knows what page everybody else is on. ”
Most of the numerical data that goes into the rankings changed little.
But the new grades will also feature plusses and minuses to indicate whether a school is moving up or down in its performance. No plus or minus sign indicates there has been little or no growth.
Still, the letter grade system has boosters and detractors.
Marsha Baker is the principal at Ouachita Junior High in Monroe.
She has misgivings about the new system.
“I think our students and our schools certainly need to be accountable. But I think we have to look at student growth from year to year, and compare the same kids from year to year. Even in my setting, my eighth grade is our high stakes testing. Well, those kids leave me, and then I get a whole new set of eighth graders. Well, I’m not comparing the same people.”
Dr. Dorothy Schween is the University of Louisiana at Monroe’s department head of curriculum and instruction. She takes a different approach.
She says the new performance rankings could be helpful to parents.
“Parents all relate to ‘I want my child to make an A. I want my child’s school to be rated an A’ And so, I think it’s a better way for parents to be able to relate to the score that the school is making in terms of being above average, below average, or my child’s school is performing at an average level.”
But Schween stops short of characterizing the shift as meaningful, saying that will depend on whether the system does in fact enable parents to make better sense of the ratings.
And Principal Baker is concerned about the way the new system will work.
“It’s somewhat of an unfair system at this point. Let’s take a school who, last year, was 115 points and this year they’re 100. Well, they’ve dropped 15 points, but going to give them a B. And then let’s take a school who was at 70, and this year they’re an 85. So they grew 15 points, but we’re going to give them a D.”
Rating methods vary throughout the South.
For example, as Louisiana transitions to the letter grade system, Arkansas uses a two-step model based on test scores.
State education accountability official, John Hoy explains.
“The state of Arkansas uses a dual rating system. We use something called the status model, which gives us an idea of how students are performing in a school or district right now. And we use something called a gains model, which gives an indication of whether students are improving in terms of their achievement.”
Hoy characterizes his state’s system as effective, saying test scores have indicated progress.
Here in Louisiana, parent Jana Stephens sees a new beginning with the grading system as it relates to her young son.
“I guess I’ll just have to wing it and see. Like everything that starts new, you’ll have to see how it’s implemented and how it goes down the road. ‘Cuz he’s got 13 years left.
The letter grades are expected to be a major topic of discussion among educators this week as the state’s first ever letter grades for schools are made public.