This week, following public testimony and in response to stakeholder feedback, the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) voted to defer several proposed changes to the state’s K-12 school accountability formula. This is good news for kids and communities around the state, and BESE members deserve our gratitude for doing the right thing in the face of significant pressure otherwise.

While some of the proposed changes represent positive steps forward, Pelican and other stakeholders successfully advocated for a more comprehensive review of the system rather than attempting tweaks along the margins. A more holistic review should address lingering weaknesses, better align the system with standards of proficiency and true readiness for college and careers, and improve overall transparency and usefulness for Louisiana families.

Some policy changes require tweaks and changes, but when it comes to the accountability system, Louisiana needs a reset. The conversation around school accountability must shift towards a full overhaul if we are ever going to get out of the bottom rankings in educational outcomes.

State K-12 education accountability systems are critically important. They set expectations for student achievement, drive school leaders’ plans for teaching and academic interventions, and serve as public report cards for how well public schools are educating our children. When designed well, accountability systems can drive significant positive change. Florida and Mississippi, for example, overhauled their K-12 school accountability systems to set higher expectations and to make them more transparent to the public. They’ve achieved remarkable growth, moving from among the lowest performing states closer to the national average and, in some cases, even leading the nation in academic progress.

On the other hand, Louisiana’s accountability system remains incredibly complex and confusing. Instead of showing scores out of 100, we utilize a 150-point grading scale. The current growth component is overly complex and uses a relative measure of growth within Louisiana, rather than progress toward a proficiency standard. Schools are awarded points for students who perform at levels below proficiency, in some cases two full levels below proficiency. Tweaking the system and adding more points here and there, while maintaining a system not designed to achieve success, will not drive the level of improvement we need. We can do better.

Louisiana’s children are just as smart and capable as any in America. We look forward to working with BESE in the weeks ahead on a plan to more comprehensively strengthen Louisiana’s K-12 accountability system so that our children can receive the quality education they need and deserve.