There is something wrong with the state letter grade system

There is something terribly wrong with the state assessment program; it is hurting our schools, stressing our educators and robbing many children.

The state’s assessment program is operating with three primary directives: 1) train a large number of workers for selected industries 2) Keep Louisiana students in Louisiana; and 3) Increase graduation rates by offering a watered-down “Path” to graduation for at-risk students.

To achieve these goals the system has developed a watered-down high school graduation path called “Tops Technical.” It prepares you for jobs that do not require higher-level thinking.

The philosophy behind this path is that troubled children will create a bottleneck in the system because their poverty and dysfunction prevents them from performing at the 12th-grade level. So, the state gives them a watered-down path that will prepare them for the workplace, but without the option of attending a four-year college without remediation.

The assessment test devised by the state only tests the workplace skills needed by the specific industries targeted. The test does not measure, the arts, or foreign language. It doesn’t measure home economics, industrial arts, or Speech subjects. Even American History is not a required measure. Industry wants workers, not scholars and thinkers

To push students into this channel, the state has devised a scoring metric that makes academic achievement only a small measure of a school’s performance. The program rewards schools that push students into the “Tops Technical” path with extra incentives and even allows schools to take a watered-down ACT test called “Work Keys.” ACT scores are excepted by colleges, but they do not accept the watered-down “Work Keys.”

The extra weight the program gives to the “Tops Technical” path makes it possible for a high school to absolutely fail students in academics, but still be considered an “A” school by the state because of the number of students participating in the its “watered down” Tops Technical program.

These “Fake” high school letter grades give a false picture to the parents who rarely look behind the grade to see that academically not a single Monroe high school achieved an “A” academically. One school had a “C” in assessments and the other two had a grade of “F.”

That means it is something seriously wrong with the formula if a school’s academic performance can decrease and its letter grade can increase.

The problem is not with the school or its administrators, its with the state program itself.

If high school letter grades were given using the same standard as elementary schools, which is mostly on academics, two of our high schools would be “F” schools and one would be a “C.”

School Board president Bill Willson says we have made great advancements in the district and praises Superintendent Vidrine. If we strip away the fake High School letter grade and look at the second page of the report, there is nothing to praise anyone for: Academically the district is failing to educate our students.

The Tops Tech path is not required by the state. It is optional, but the district is promoting it to hide its academic failure. The superintendent hides behind a statement he makes frequently, “everyone doesn’t want to go to college. The richest man in the world didn’t go to college.”

One thing Dr. Vidrine omitted: The richest men in the world did go to college, but dropped out. Why? They knew more than their professors; it wasn’t because they were not college material.

It is district’s responsibility to graduate students who think, write, read, handle numbers and understand abstract ideas on a 12th-grade level. Those who graduate on a 12th-grade level have the option to attend college OR take a career path after graduation.

The present path takes that option away. No student in the “Tops Technical” path can attend a four-year college without going to a junior college first for remediation. It’s a nice way of saying  “Your diploma is not worth the paper it’s written on for four-year college purposes.”

The school board should opt-out of the Tops Technical path. It should offer career courses as electives and concentrate its efforts on graduating every student with a full 12th-grade education.

We should present them with a real high school diploma instead of a diploma that is “watered down” at the least, and “Fake” at the most.

Shame on Louisiana for cheating our students.

Shame on Superintendent Vidrine and city school board for using this path to get fake high school grades that hide serious academic deficiencies.

It’s nothing to boast about.