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Louisiana education board wants to skip school letter grades


FILE – In this Oct. 12, 2020, file photo, students arrive by bus at Foundation Preparatory School for their return to school during the coronavirus in New Orleans. It was the first day of in-person learning for fifth-12th grade public school students in Orleans Parish. Despite climbing numbers of COVID-19 cases around Louisiana, state education leaders are leaving decisions on mask mandates, physical distancing and other measures aimed at lessening coronavirus spread to local public school districts for the upcoming year. (Chris Granger/The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate via AP, File)

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana’s top school board agreed Monday to seek federal permission to shelve the issuance of letter grades for K-12 public schools this year because of classroom upheaval sparked by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Advocate reports the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education agreed to the request without objection. Officials believe the U.S. Department of Education will easily approve the request after signing off on similar accountability waiver requests from dozens of other states.

The grades and school performance scores are traditionally announced in November and spell out how schools fared in the previous school year, a key benchmark in Louisiana’s accountability system.

But the bulk of school performance scores and letter grades are tied to student performance on standardized math, English, science and social studies tests that students took in the spring — called LEAP 2025. State officials announced earlier this month that those scores plummeted across nearly every school district in the state during the pandemic.

Backers of the waiver request said the LEAP results were so flawed that it makes no sense to issue letter grades. Supporters included representatives of charter schools, local school boards, and school superintendents, according to the Advocate.

“We are not sure the results are purposeful or accurate,” said Janet Pope, executive director of the Louisiana School Boards Association.

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted for the waiver request after hearing state Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley review the test results.

“I hope this is only a one-year pause because of unprecedented conditions,” Brumley said.

The only opponent of the waiver request at Monday’s meeting was Daniel Esparmer, leader of the right-leaning Pelican Institute for Public Policy.

“We have to know how the kids are doing, how the districts are performing,” he said.

Doris Voitier, an education board member and superintendent of the St. Bernard Parish school system, said education officials supported students taking the tests.

“And the reasons are to inform instruction,” Voitier said. “Every parent will know how their children did on the test.”

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