A Pulse Check on the Region’s Competitiveness
2017-2018 School Performance Scores
Each year, the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) releases scores rating all public-school districts and schools in the state. Using a variety of student achievement data, these scores provide parents and the community with an annual health check on the area’s school performance. As the economic development organization for the Capital Region, BRAC has an interest in the performance and vitality of the local education systems to ensure the community has a competitive edge and skilled workforce when recruiting new businesses and encouraging existing businesses to grow.
The 2017-2018 Results
A large majority of Capital Region school districts experienced a drop in performance scores over the last year. This was expected, but why? One key cause is the implementation of the state’s new, more transparent accountability system. After the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which required states to develop a long-term strategy for K-12 education, Louisiana’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) voted to raise the bar for student achievement and redefine what an “A-rated” school should be.
The new accountability system requires schools to set the baseline of proficiency at attaining “mastery” (a 4 on a 5-point scale) on statewide testing, as opposed to “basic” (a 3 on a 5-point scale) under the last system. BRAC believes this change is a clearer indication of what “A-level” performance should reflect in Louisiana. However, that isn’t the only change causing the recent drop in scores. Amid concerns that student growth wasn’t appropriately weighted in the old accountability system, the state opted to place heavier emphasis on student growth or “growth toward mastery” in its updated policy.
The new policy emphasizes student growth to the extent that it now accounts for 25 percent of a school’s overall performance score. While this metric change has had the greatest impact on school scores, it provides deeper insight into what is happening inside the schools.
The data gives state and school leaders the insight to identify the most effective ways to provide educators and students with assistance while allocating resources that are needed for success. How? For schools with “A” ratings, the new policy encourages school leaders to continue pushing for higher achievement, ensuring no school stays stagnant. Without measuring student growth, schools that received failing grades under the old accountability system typically were branded as bad schools. For some of them, this skin-deep analysis bellied some real success. With the new standards, parents can now make more informed decisions because they can now see whether a school has had success in helping students earn significant growth in achievement. With new demographic breakdowns for each achievement metric, parents can see if a school has had success with students who have similar characteristics to their own children. Additionally, the policy change gives lower performing schools an opportunity to prove their effectiveness in impacting student achievement by tracking students’ year-over-year growth.
BRAC continues to be a strong supporter of higher standards for student achievement. The economic health of the region depends on the ability to properly educate and prepare students to lead successful careers as the Capital Region’s next wave of innovators and business leaders.
Want to see how specific schools performed in the nine-parish region? Visit louisianaschools.com to view detailed breakdowns in student achievement metrics.
Written by Ethan Melancon
As policy and research project manager, Ethan is BRAC’s staff lead for education and workforce development, focusing on cultivating the Capital Region’s talent through STEM learning and aligning workforce development systems to meet business needs.