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Business Report

The Baton Rouge Area Chamber is urging the Louisiana Department of Education to “reject any effort to water down accountability” and “increase student engagement in relevant and valuable workplace experiences” as the state crafts a plan to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.

ESSA is a bipartisan measure that was signed into law in December and reauthorizes the 50-year-old Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The law requires all states to create a system of accountability. Proponents say the new federal law offers more flexibility in creating standards unlike the one-size-fits-all approach of the No Child Left Behind Act, which ESSA replaces.

In a commentary released this morning, BRAC says recent news stories about state Superintendent John White’s summer tour to discuss ESSA have “focused primarily on feedback from union leaders seeking to use the ESSA review as an excuse to advocate for reducing state testing and eliminating school letter grades.”

BRAC is opposed to such efforts.

“Rather than devising ways to leverage the ESSA review process to turn away from the strategies that have yielded success and growth for Louisiana’s students, BRAC instead suggests that the LDE consider using this review as a constructive opportunity to improve students’ college and career readiness,” the chamber writes.

BRAC says increasing opportunities for high school students to have workplace experiences will better prepare them for life after graduation. Such experiences can be in the form of internships, jobs, Virtual Workplace Experience, or school-based enterprises.

“Holding schools accountable for providing workplace experiences is an important step in leveling the playing field for students of all backgrounds,” BRAC says, noting students from affluent families tend to have greater opportunities for internships and other workplace experiences because of the professional networks to which their parents have access. “Although students from low-income households may not have access to the business networks needed to obtain meaningful workplace experiences, schools and districts do have access to local business leaders, provided they have the motivation to prioritize and leverage these relationships.”

Read the full commentary.