Like many states, Louisiana publishes annual school grades based on various measures of student and school performance. In New Orleans, where families have to choose which schools their children attend, the grades are particularly important. Parents trying to decide between different schools often start by looking at the state’s grades; some refuse even to consider schools that have not earned an A or B grade.
Clear, straightforward school grades are a boon to families. The only problem is, Louisiana’s grades are based primarily on how many students reach a certain level of proficiency on state tests, with relatively little attention paid to how much students grow. This poses a disadvantage to schools where students may start behind and grow substantially, yet still fall short of the proficiency bar. To its credit, Louisiana has proposed to change its school quality grade calculations to put more weight on student growth. Until then, however, schools that are especially good (or bad) at accelerating student learning are easy to miss.
Last year, we published our own grades for K-8 public schools in Orleans Parish, with greater emphasis on student growth, as a way to address this issue. Today, we’re doing the same, with updated state data.
Download The 2017 School Grades Now
Like last year, our grades combine the “School Performance Score” (SPS) issued by the state Department of Education with additional measures of how well each school met growth targets for student learning in English Language Arts and math. (See our Frequently Asked Questions for details.)
We use this methodology because it is a better reflection of how the families we support through EdNavigator look at school quality. Though parents appreciate schools with high test passage rates, they tend to care more about whether schools move students forward each year, regardless of where they started.
We do not see any school grades, including our own, as a full representation of a school. They leave out important features like a school’s culture, its relationships with parents, its extracurricular programming, and its partnership with its local community. Additionally, a “good” school is not necessarily good for every student and a “bad” school is not necessarily bad for each student. Each family’s experience is unique.
However, we believe strongly that parents should have access to the highest quality information about schools when they are making choices about where to enroll their children. Our approach to grading schools has been useful for the families we support – and we hope it will be useful for other families in the New Orleans area as well. The full list of applicable Orleans Parish schools and their EdNavigator grades is available above. Later this week, we’ll take a closer look at some of the schools whose grades changed under our model.