Introducing Louisiana’s New Accountability System

Introducing Louisiana’s New Accountability System

If you’re like me, you have trouble deciphering all the different symbols, letters, stars and numerical scores associated with Louisiana’s various Accountability systems.  Every year the Louisiana Department of Education changes something in their Accountability system, ostensibly to make it more understandable to you and me.  Every year I get more perplexed.

For a while we had stars “*” associated with our schools.  I guess the more you had, the better (like when you’re reading the newspaper to see what movies you should go see.  You don’t want to go to a one popcorn icon bag movie anymore than you want to send your kids to a one star school I guess. )

Now we have letter grades I think.  I know an A is good and an F is bad, but what does that mean I’m good or bad at exactly?   When I try to look at the numerical scores I see a lot of 70’s and 80’s and a few 90’s.  That seems good, until I start noticing the 103’s and 123’s.  Do those schools get bonus points for kissing up to the superintendent or something?  Oh wait, I find out that the scores are actually out of 200 points.  (I saw something about a 150 point scale coming out soon but that totally blows my mind and I can’t keep up with that so I’m ignoring that for now and focusing on the 200 point scale for our recently released scores.)

Anywho, anything above a 120 to a 200 is an A according to this chart.  That comes to a 60% of the possible points for the lowest possible A.  (When I went to school a 60% was the lowest possible passing grade on a generous 10 point scale but i guess things have changed since then?)

So what does this mean?  It’s a numerical score with a letter grade attached that looks like a grade one might get on a report card (where even our top performers would be failures anywhere else.)

So how does this score get calculated?

Maybe that will answer my questions?

Well, here’s something LDE uses to explain the scores.  Apparently Most of our SPS scores are based on test scores.  Other factors are attendance, dropouts, and something called a graduation index.

Now I know exactly how this works!

But, wait, what test scores?

What are those other things and how do they translate to these percentages of something else?

I can’t use any of this to figure out how my score gets created, or how I can improve my score.  Am I graded on some sort of curve where a 32% passes the class?

Who determines this curve anyways?

Maybe if I look at some scores and grades it will make more sense?

Oh no!  Now there are pluses and minuses!  Well they are letter grades so I suppose that makes sense?

I will just send my kid to the best letter grade school in my district.  But there are two 113.3’s with different scores!  One has a B- and one has a B.  Could that be a rounding issue?  How Does Midland High School have a B- with a score of 118.9 and  Iota middle school have a B with a 105.5?  And then there is Mire elementary with a 104.9 and a C-?  Holy crap, what a difference .6 points make????  But how does North Crowley merit a full-fledged C with a 91.1?

It’s as if the LDOE was trying to be purposely confusing. . . . Most of the executives working up there have almost two full years of education experience under their belts, so they should be familiar with how to make things easy to understand for various stakeholders, but this system seems anything but (and it’s merely the latest incarnation of a long line of scores and grading systems. )

It’s almost as if. . .  you don’t think. . .  maybe they are trying to mislead parents and the general public?  I mean really, why would you develop a grading system on a 200 point scale?  I’m no math wiz, but it seems like you could simply divide a number by 2 and put a 200 point scale on a 100 point scale most people could have understood. . .   Is LDOE simply putting the proverbial lipstick on a pig by assigning letter grades of A and B to schools that managed to rack up 60% or less of the total possible points?

And I found out something else.  The tests they are using don’t assign letter grades to the students taking them.  They categorize students in categories such as Basic, Approaching Basic, Mastery, etc.  Why can’t we simply see the total counts of students taking the tests and the students in those various categories and make our own inferences?

Why create something complicated called a graduate index and including that in the scores?   (I could include some info on how that and dropouts are calculated but you’d be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of crap that goes into them.  Those rates can also be fooled and manipulated and LDOE does not audit the raw data that comprises any of the add-on to scores like attendance, dropouts, and graduate index, so they are easy to abuse if one had the need to.)

These scores are designed in such a way to tell whatever story LDOE wants to tell.  They can be troubling scores, when LDOE wants to force charter schools and voucher schools down your throats.  They can be outstanding scores with across the board improvement when John White’s contract is up for review, or he needs a raise, or he needs to build public support for his latest lame-brained corporate sponsored idea.  These scores can (and are) tweaked to reward the obedient and punish the questioning.  They can be capricious and counter-productive since a tenth of a point can be the difference between a B+ and a C-.  Accountability scores are anything but accountable.  They hold the wrong folks “accountable” and allow our leaders, who should truly be the ones held accountable, to write their own rule books, sing their own swan songs, and sow their own diversionary seeds of discontent.

Anyways, as promised.  Enclosed is an early release of Louisiana’s new accountability system.  I think this one will be easier than most of the other ones to understand at least.