October 24, 2013

Baton Rouge, LA

Today John White and the Louisiana Department of education have released a new grade scale they believe will make it easier to understand SPS, School Performance scores. Whereas in the past, the old, yucky score scale was printed out in monochrome grey, the new scale features the word “NEW” with colorful dashes around the word “New” and comes in 5 new bright colors. When asked about the change, John White replied:

“Why should Apple iPhones get to come in all those fancy colors and not our SPS score scale? It just didn’t make sense to parents that they would get a grade of ‘A’ but still be stuck with a grey letter just a few shades lighter than an ‘F’. Now parents will be able to proudly display that their kids attend an ‘A’ school in greenish chartreuse. Even parents of ‘F’ school students have improved options under this new system.”

Figure 1 Taking their cue from apple, LA redesigned their SPS scoring system

When asked for official comment, LDOE spokesperson Erin Bendily reported that they decided to go to the simpler scale so parents could color coordinate their school choice with their car paint jobs and personal palette preference.

“No longer will parents be fettered by the color of low expectations.”

When BESE president Chas Roemer was contacted for comment he had this to say:

“Everyone knows the SPS scores are meaningless. LDOE juggles the formulae every year and we just approve whatever John White tells us to approve. I’m a lawyer so I don’t have to do math, so that 150 points could be 150 bagillion trillion millioniplex for all I know. What I do know is that new scales are always better and less confusing than old scales. By the way, did you know my daddy was Governor?”

To further explain how much simpler these scales were, John White had this to say in the Times Picayune:

“We are providing a transition letter grade so that schools can see using the same formula as last year how well they did this year,” he said. “And we’re including the new grade to ensure that as we transition to the new system, we give families a clear apples to apples comparison.”

Obviously since no one understood scores previously, including those scores along with new scores will make things easier for parents to understand. And who can’t see a difference in color (except for color blind parents who will sadly be unimpressed by the new scores.) To further explain how simple the new method is John White provided this very simple breakdown and the old scale and new scale.

As for the method of grading, the previous rating system for elementary schools counted student scores on iLEAP and LEAP tests for 90 percent of the school’s grade. School attendance accounted for 10 percent of the grade. Now, however, these schools will be graded entirely student test scores.

For middle schools, 90 percent was formerly based on test scores, 5 percent on attendance and 5 percent on dropout rates. This year, 95 percent will be based on test scores, and 5 percent will be based on how many students drop out or don’t progress to the next grade level.

At the high school level, 70 percent of the school’s grade was based on end-of-course examinations, 30 percent on graduation rates. This year, 25 percent will be based on ACT scores, 25 percent on end-of-course exams and 50 percent on graduation rates.

Another change is that schools no longer will receive any points for students scoring in the two lowest tiers of LEAP and iLEAP exams: unsatisfactory and approaching basic. But in an effort to avoid a drastic decrease in some schools’ scores, the state is implementing a bonus system, where schools may receive as many as 10 points for students who scored in the two lowest tiers but who made significant progress from the previous year.

White says he does not expect to see a drastic shift in the number of schools rated highly or poorly under the new grading system. He has proposed that no matter how elementary and middle school students performed on tests this year, no school would see its letter grade drop more than one letter grade.

This year’s scale is:

  • A — 100-150 points
  • B — 85-99.9
  • C — 70-84.9
  • D — 50-69.9
  • F –0-49.9

    The previous scale was:

  • A — 120-200
  • B –105-119.9
  • C – 90-104.9
  • D –75-89.9
  • F — 0-74.9

So there you have it folks. The new SPS scoring system LDOE has been working on for 6 months before releasing SPS scores. They needed to multiply the previous numbers by 0.75. Now I really feel like my tax dollars are being put to good use.

I also go this explanation from an anonymous tipster for why it took so long to release the scores.

I don’t suppose it has ANY bearing on the holdup of school performance scores, (wink wink nudge nudge), but it seems there’s a bit of a headache with the voucher schools & students….

Seems that, of the 21 voucher-receiving schools that had enough data to get a ‘comparable’ SPS, the score breakdown is: 1 B, 2 Ds and 18 would have an F. Yes, you read that right; 18 of 21 would have an F. The department is desperately trying to figure out a way to give these schools “bonus points” so that they don’t appear as ‘bad’ as they are (hesitant to  use that term about any school), but they need to play with the entire data set…so, they can’t release a score for fear it will end up changing.

There’s also a ‘slight’ problem with the data collections…it’s so bad in the non-public schools (which never bother updating info….look who I’m telling!) that students were included in both the NPS as well as their original public schools…neither the total numbers or percentages match up.

Apparently the bonus points are for the voucher schools. So voucher schools that were super crappy, but did a little better, get a 10 point bump to their score to make it look like they dramatically improved. So reporter guys, please look at that before you go off the deep end gushing about how those schools have posted dramatic gains. I’d really appreciate it if I don’t have to correct any more of your stories for you. I have my own to write. Thanks. CCF

11 thoughts on “Louisiana Releases new SPS school grade scale, in bright colors, to make easier for Louisiana parents to understand

  1. Grouping Orleans and RSD. That was a Leslie Jacobs edict. But if a kid goes between Oct. 1 and Feb. 1, from an RSD school to a different one or maybe an Orleans school, they are “lost” to that calculation. That’s unless the last remaining programming wizard found a way to do it as it should be done. But she’s so busy covering for the rest of the incompetents, she may not have accomplished it.

    That color coding helps. We used to have to be able to tell if one number was larger than another number. Is color coding in common core?

        1. After some very diligent research I have gleaned the following:

          East St. John was declared a disaster school. They met the Bulletin 111 policy that has been in place for several years to relieve a school that was closed for 18 days or more. That school suffered flooding damage from Isaac.

          §4503. One Year Waiver for “Severe Impact” Schools and Districts

          A. Schools that meet either of two conditions associated with disasters shall be labeled “severe impact” schools and shall receive a one year waiver of accountability decisions based on the schools’ school performance scores. The one year waiver is limited to the year in which the disaster occurred. The conditions are:

          1. the school was closed, due to a disaster, for 18 or more consecutive school days during a given academic year; or

          2. the school either gained or lost 25 percent or more of its testing population due to a disaster.

          1. Thank you. That actually makes sense. Any bets on when I’ll get an answer from John White? You already beat him — the only question will be how badly you beat him. I do think it would have made sense to assign East St. John a score anyway; just give them protection from the privateers. Maybe the folks in St. John Parish deserve as much choice as the folks in St. Helena? None?

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