Louisiana intends to scrap school letter grades this year

Louisiana

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BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana’s top school board Wednesday agreed to shelve letter grades for public schools this year because of the coronavirus outbreak, assuming the federal government signs off on the move as expected.

The action from the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education means that grades and school performance scores that are usually released in November will be set aside amid classroom upheaval and falling test scores blamed on the pandemic.

The Advocate reports that state Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley said he’s confident the waiver request will win federal approval. At least 45 other states have gotten federal clearance to cancel school rating procedures, and the U.S. Department of Education encouraged states to apply for waivers because of the pandemic.

“We fully expect what we have seen from other states, that the waiver will be approved,” Brumley told the state education board Tuesday.

The board initially signed off Tuesday on the suspension of the school letter grades and performance scores, with final action taken Wednesday without objection.

Education groups have said for months that it made no sense to issue letter grades judging performance for the 2020-21 school year amid all the disruptions caused by COVID-19. The Advocate reports the letter grades were expected to take a nosedive after key standardized test scores from the spring fell statewide.

Schools are given a school performance score based largely on how students fared on LEAP 2025, which tests their knowledge of math, English, science and social studies. Those scores are then linked to letter grades in a bid to let parents and others know how schools are performing.

Critics have long called the grades simplistic and misleading.

The state intends to provide districts with school performance scores that Brumley emphasized would be advisory, without a corresponding letter grade and not carrying the weight they typically do. That part of the plan was denounced by officials of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents and the Louisiana School Boards Association.

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