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Public education funding likely to be frozen again

BESE Report
December, 2017

Public education funding likely to be frozen again

State Superintendent of Education John White announced to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education that a funding increase for public education’s Minimum Foundation Program is unlikely in the coming year.

With the state facing a shortfall of over $1 billion next year, White said, it does not look like Governor John Bel Edwards will recommend an increase in his upcoming executive budget.

This year, the state is spending about $3.7 billion on public schools through the MFP. While that is a higher dollar amount than in previous years, the per-pupil amount has only been raised once since 2008. Any other increase is due to a bump in student enrolment.

White told BESE that the executive budget will be reviewee at the next meeting of the state board on January 23 and 24, 2018.

Testing irregularities questioned; superintendents to investigate

With more than 350 standardized tests voided statewide due to erasure analyses – and about 140 of them from one parish alone – BESE will ask the Parish Superintendents Advisory Council to look at the way test voids are determined and recommend a process to challenge the results.

An erasure analysis considers the number of changes made on a test from the wrong to the right answer and, using a mathematical formula, determines whether the changes appear to be due to cheating.

St. Helena Parish Superintendent of Schools Kelli Joseph told BESE that her parish had the highest number of voided tests. She questioned why a test could be voided if only between three and eight answers had been changed from right to wrong.

On a 52 question math portion of the test, she said, some were voided when just three answers had been changed from wrong to right.

Students are told that once they finish a section of the test, Joseph said, they should go back over their answers and check them again.

State Superintendent of Education John White pushed back, saying that erasures were made in classes where too many students made wrong-to-right changes. “Statistically, we can’t count these scores,” he said.

BESE sent the issue to PSAC, which will be asked to study the erasure analyses and recommend an appeals process if it appears necessary. BSE will not be required to accept the recommendation of the superintendents, however.

BESE to close some charter schools

Charter renewals for three New Orleans charter schools and one in Northeast Louisiana’s Madison Parish were denied by BESE this week.

In New Orleans, BESE denied charter renewals for Sylvanie Williams College Prep, ReNEW Cultural Arts Academy and Dwight D. Eisenhower Academy of Global Studies. The schools failed to attain a letter grade of “C”, which is required for a second charter renewal.

Sylvanie Williams received an “F” letter grade this year; ReNEW and Eisenhower were both graded “D”.

The Orleans Parish school Board will decide if those schools will be closed, or if they will be operated by new charter operators.

Two of New Orleans’ remaining district-run schools, Benjamin Franklin Elementary Mathematics and Science School and Mary McLeod Bethune Elementary School of Literature and Technology, are expected to be converted to charters. That would leave John McDonogh 35 Senior High School as the only non-charter, district-run school in the Crescent City.

The Tallulah Charter School in Madison Parish will have its charter revoked after falling from a “C” grade in 2015-16 to an “F” in 2016-17.

Vision Academy, a Monroe charter school, was granted a temporary reprieve until BESE’s January meeting. The school was graded “F” in 2016-17, but qualified as a Top Gains school because it showed a 12.5 point increase in student performance scores.

Superintendent of Education John White did not have a recommendation about the Vision Academy charter, saying that he needs additional information before weighing in.

Regents approve dual enrolment changes

After hearing questions about the rigor of dual enrolment courses, the Board of Regents approved changes in the way high school students can earn college credit.

Dual enrolment is increasingly popular in Louisiana, having grown from a 9,600 student program in 2009 to a robust 23,000 students today. Although the courses offered in high school are expected to mirror their college counterparts, higher education officials said they question the equivalence.

To meet that concern, a new rule says that dual enrolment teachers who are not college faculty will be trained by colleges on how to teach and grade the courses.

In addition, students who need remediation in English or math will be required to address those deficiencies while they are enrolled in the dual enrolment courses.

The changes were met with wide approval from school boards and higher education officials.