Louisiana has proposed a small, but high-quality list of indicators focused on academic achievement and success.
The state deserves credit for including achievement not just in English language arts and math but also history and science, which will help address concerns about curriculum narrowing. To provide schools with a strong incentive to care about participation rates, schools will earn zero points on the test-based indicators for students who do not participate in statewide assessments. The state has also proposed innovative, age-appropriate measures for middle and high schools that incorporate measures beyond test results.
Louisiana does not yet have a separate “school quality or student success” indicator for elementary schools.
The state proposes to add a promising “Interests and Opportunities” indicator in 2019-2020. In the meantime, Louisiana could consider separating its two growth models to comply with this indicator, or it could incorporate something like chronic absenteeism.
In other grade spans, the state has developed innovative academic measures.
The Dropout Credit Accumulation Index for middle schools will measure credit accumulation through the end of ninth grade and is designed to measure how well middle schools prepare students for high school. It will create an incentive for schools to work on middle school and high school alignment, and to make sure students are ready for success at the next level.
Louisiana is encouraging more students to complete more advanced diplomas.
For high schools, the state includes a promising “Strength of Diploma” measure that gives schools credit for helping more of their graduates taking and passing AP/IB/CLEP tests, earning college credit through dual-enrollment courses, earning industry credentials, or completing other types of high school diplomas. It will be important for the state to track which students are pursuing which options, particularly for English learners and students with disabilities, who might be inappropriately pushed toward alternative diplomas.
Louisiana risks overemphasizing the highest levels of performance at the expense of masking other students.
On its assessment index, a hypothetical school with two-thirds of its students at Advanced (Level 5) and one-third at Unsatisfactory (Level 1) would earn the same number of points as a school with all of its students at Mastery (Level 4). Louisiana’s index for high school students, based on performance on ACT or WorkKeys, has a similar incentive structure. Although the above example may be extreme, Louisiana should monitor its data to ensure that it is appropriately balancing higher-level performance with its grade-level expectations.