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Louisiana’s 2018 District Letter Grades Mostly “Grade” Poverty. (No Surprise Here.)

November 12, 2018

Louisiana’s 2018 district letter grades closely mirror district economics, with poorer districts more likely to have lower district grades.

No surprise, and still, the grading continues.

From my colleague, James Finney, who used the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) release of 2018 district performance scores to calculate the following notable relationship between district poverty and lower district grades:

Six months after the 2017-18 school year ended, [Louisiana state superintendent John White and the Louisiana Board for Elementary and Secondary Education] promulgated yet another round of useless School and District Performance Scores. As is customary, the scores track poverty very well. To be specific, the poverty level of a district (as measured by what percent of students are economically disadvantaged) explains 2/3 of the variability in District Performance Scores.

Looking at this another way, 48 of 69 school districts have 80% or fewer economically disadvantaged students. Among those schools, there were 4 As, 33 Bs and 11 Cs. Of 14 schools with 80%-90% of their students economically disadvantaged, there were 2 Bs ans 12 Cs. Among the remaining 7 schools (those with at least 90% of their students economically disadvantaged), there were 2 Cs, 3 Ds and 2 Fs.


The fact that school grades predominately capture economics is nothing new. Consider the following graph of Florida school grades from this 2001 study from Florida State University:


The greater percentage of students on subsidized lunch, the lower the school letter grade.

By the way, grading schools was former Florida governor Jeb Bush’s idea, one that was spread among states by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which showcased school grading at ALEC’s 2010 conference in Washington, DC (see this post for details).

And from Chatham County, North Carolina in 2015:


The greater the percentage of students on free and/or reduced lunch, the lower the school letter grade.

And, finally, this from Texas in 2017:

Arguably the biggest complaint about the new A-F school accountability system in Texas is that it unfairly penalizes campuses with high numbers of low-income students.

An American-Statesman analysis of preliminary A-F grades issued last month shows that the schools with the poorest student populations in Texas were up to 30 percent more likely than their wealthier peers to earn a failing letter grade in at least one of the four categories. The analysis did not include alternative education campuses.

The socioeconomic disparity was even wider in Central Texas schools. Eighty percent of campuses where 60 to 80 percent of the students come from low-income families received at least one failing letter grade. Schools with the lowest percentages of poor students were nearly 50 percent less likely to post a failing mark.

The lower the percentage of poor students, the less likely a “failing mark.”

The grading of schools and districts is principally a grading of school and district economics.

And yet, the grading continues.

thinker facepalm


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Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

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  1. G*dam*it, isn’t this already common knowledge among policy-makers? Why must every problem still be solved with a hammer? What’s the solution? Gentle persuasion? Mockery? A bigger hammer?

  2. There’s that name again. Jeb Bush – he has literally ruined education in Florida where I live. People despise him…..yet they continue to push his failed policies nationwide. The whole school grade farce is absolutely despicable. Yet it continues. EVERY single school that is a Title 1 school or in an economically disadvantaged area are all F or D schools. When are people going to wake up!! The damage this inflicts is despicable!

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Mercedes Schneider: Letter Grades for Schools Are a Measure of the Families’ Income Level | Diane Ravitch's blog
  2. A-F school blame game tracks student poverty, not school accountability | TSTA Blog Site

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