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The Quantification Shuffle: La. BESE Looking to Change School Grading Formula in 2025-26

August 21, 2022

In October 2011, the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) began labeling Louisiana schools using letter grades, a Jeb-Bush idea featured by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in December 2010 and considered the “lynchpin” of test-based ed reform.

Also in December 2010, then BESE president, Penny Dastugue promoted the idea, saying “People can relate to grades.”

A. B. C. D. F. So clear, right?

Not so. The devil is in the formulas and scoring (shifting formulas and scoring, at that; see here and here, for example), which leaves sensible individuals wondering what it all means, anyway.

Here we go again.

Proposed for the August 23, 2022, meeting of BESE’s Academic Goals and Instructional Improvement Committee:

In August 2021, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) passed a motion to convene a working group of BESE members to explore how the state measures, values, and rewards growth in the accountability formula. Subsequently, the board expanded the role of the study group to study the entirety of Louisiana’s K-12 accountability system and provide BESE with considerations for adopting changes to the state’s accountability formula. 

The report is a culmination of those meetings and the recommendations of the study group. In addition, it includes a summary of feedback that has been shared by stakeholders.

Per BESE Accountability Study Group direction at the August 8, 2022, meeting, proposed revisions to Bulletin 111, The Louisiana school, District, and State Accountability System, have been drafted and included for board discussion and consideration.  Included in the proposed policy is an update to the measures identified by the work group.

The LDE recommendation is to approve, as a Notice of Intent, revisions to Bulletin 111, The Louisiana School, District, and State Accountability System, regarding accountability.

BESE has yet to make a final decision on the matter, but its looking like they will take a vote on August 23, 2022.

On May 25, 2022, the Accountability study group (membership includes Kira Orange-Jones, chair when present; Belinda Davis, Sandy Holloway, Michael Melerine, Ronnie Morris) produced this 26-slide report of its investigation of Louisiana’s school grading system. Note that “accountability” is narrow by nature since the focus is on “student academic growth and measurable outcomes” (slide 5). Therefore, if one cannot put a number on a quality or concept, no matter now desirable such a quality or concept may be, it cannot figure into a school rating. What does not lend itself to quantification is disregarded by design.

But it must work. It simply must work because, numbers.

Another iteration of the ALEC lynchpin.

Here is the link for Bulletin 111 (Louisiana School, District, and State Accountability System), including both text of the current accountability document as well as proposed changes, which are underlined. It is too long to post verbatim in its entirety, so I’ll present some of its *new-and-improved* key points and encourage all to examine Bulletin 111 for more.

First of all, the changes are proposed to be instituted in the 2025-26 school year. The scale is proposed to change from 150-point to 125-point. (Not being 100 points would guarantee interpretation complication right out of the gate.) Grades K-8 would get an additional component connected to “shifts made to improve measurement of growth.” Ninth grade would going to get a “success measure.” Data from 2024-25 would be used to set point ranges for the 2025-26 scale “that would result in the same distribution of A-C letter graded elementary schools and D and F graded elementary schools under the new scale as existed under the previous scale,” with subsequent annual adjustments to point ranges to be made “until such time as A=100, B=85, and C=70, or BESE takes other action to stabilize the distribution.”

Surely all readers *intuitively understand* these proposed adjustments.

Let’s go for more:

Something for K-8 embedded with K-2:

Beginning in the 2025-2026 school year (2026 SPS), the kindergarten through eighth grade assessment index will also include a measure of K-2 literacy and growth on student literacy. In addition, no earlier than the 2024-2025 school year (2025 SPS), the department will develop and establish an assessment or a screener to measure numeracy for students in K-2.

With the establishment of the K-2 literacy screener and baseline scores, the department will recommend how to incorporate K-2 literacy results in the school assessment index. The calculation of the kindergarten through eighth grade assessment index will always ensure that the weight of student scores on LEAP in grades three and above will always be weighted more than that of the K-2 results.

As for eighth grade, welcome to the weeds, folks:

Through the 2024-2025 school year, when eighth grade students only participate in the Algebra I test but not the grade-level math assessment, the Algebra I test results will be used in the middle school assessment index (80 for basic, 100 for mastery, and 150 for advanced) and will be weighted by content as noted in the table above. Middle schools will also earn incentive points for all high school LEAP 2025 scores of mastery or advanced earned during the same year in which the test was administered.

Incentive points will be awarded as follows: advanced = 50; and mastery = 25.

Beginning with the 2025-2026 school year, when eighth grade students only participate in the Algebra I test but not the gradelevel math assessment, the Algebra I test results will be used in the middle school assessment index (80 for basic, 100 for mastery, and 125 for advanced) and will be weighted by content as noted in the table above. Middle schools will also earn incentive points for all high school LEAP 2025 scores of mastery or advanced earned during the same year in which the test was administered, [with] advanced = 25; and mastery = 15.

The policy outlined in Subsection G of this Section will also apply to combination schools. The high school LEAP 2025 score will be used in middle school results for the year in which the assessment is taken, incentive points may be awarded, and the score will be banked for use in the high school score once the student arrives in ninth grade….

I’ll leave you with that. For more detail on these proposed alterations, see Bulletin 111 linked above.

If you are uncomfortable with these changes, the good news is that remedying perceived formulaic errors is so important that BESE proposes to continue to grade schools for three more years using formulas determined insufficient, thereby avoiding the perils of completely foregoing grades in the interim and rushing into correction.

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3 Comments
  1. Mathematical measurement mental masturbation is what it is.

    Unfortunately, such pseudo-assessing has a devastating effect on the teaching and learning process.

    When will we learn, when will we ever learn?

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. The Quantification Shuffle: La. BESE Looking to Change School Grading Formula in 2025-26 — deutsch29: Mercedes Schneider’s Blog | David R. Taylor
  2. Assessment Reform News–August 17-23, 2022 – Fairtest

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