Louisiana adopts new accountability rules for alternative schools

Louisiana adopts new accountability rules for alternative schools

(La.) In an effort to better link performance indicators for alternative schools with their academic goals, the Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has adopted a new accountability system based on multiple measures.

Alternative education, generally made available to high school students, is designed to provide more flexibility in the delivery of services and often includes more support to help get students back on track toward graduation.

In Louisiana, alternative education schools have until now been evaluated using the same accountability system applied to traditional schools.

Under the new system, approved last week, elementary and middle schools would be judged on student test scores but alternative high schools would be evaluated equally on state assessments, student qualification for post-secondary credentials and the accumulation of core academic credits.

“This new system presents a meaningful opportunity for alternative education schools to have their good work reflected in a positive way,” state schools chief John White said in a statement. “It creates an opportunity for us all, specifically parents and educators, to truly understand whether alternative schools are assisting students.”

Congress gave states authority over defining school success and how that would be measured with the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act in 2015.

Louisiana was one of the first states to receive approval of its ESSA plan in August, 2017. As part of the plan, the state board adopted new A-to-F performance grades that are based largely–but not exclusively–on student performance data and state assessment scores.

The board’s action this month, brings alternative schools into alignment with the state’s overall accountability system.

In addition to new measures, administrators of alternative schools will also be required for the first time to explain to the public how their programs will “ensure appropriate transitions between traditional schools and alternative education sites, base alternative education planning on student data, develop comprehensive plans that address both behavioral and academic needs, and rely on evidence-based practices, including targeted professional development for educators who serve at such sites,” according to a release from the education department.

The new accountability system will be transitioned in over a three-year period, starting in 2019.

Because of the population they serve, alternative schools traditionally reported the lowest graduation rates nationally. According to a 2018 report from Johns Hopkins University, the number of alternative high schools is growing.

In 2015, the most recent data available, there were 878 alternative high schools with low graduation rates. Just two years earlier, there were just 677.

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