Accountability

Storms Force Louisiana, Mississippi to Review K-12 Policies

By David J. Hoff — October 04, 2005 3 min read

The two states that bore the brunt of Hurricane Katrina have started easing their K-12 testing and accountability policies to help students and districts recovering from the storm.

In Louisiana, the state board of education voted last week to waive a state policy that would have required this year’s 4th and 8th graders to pass state tests before moving to the next grade. But the board decided to keep the high school exit exam as a requirement for the class of 2006.

In Mississippi, the legislature was on the verge late last week of giving the state school board the authority to halt the state accountability system in districts affected by Katrina.

While both moves were intended to ease the burden of state testing on those affected most by the devastating hurricane, policymakers in both states said the one-year changes aren’t diminishing their commitment to improving student achievement.

“We must do what’s best for the children of our state, and that’s why we will continue testing this year, but with consideration for the difficult things children are experiencing,” Louisiana Superintendent of Education Cecil J. Picard said in a Sept. 27 statement, after the state board approved the policy for the 2005-06 school year.

On the federal level, meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings announced new measures last week that could give hurricane-affected schools and districts some relief from the accountability provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act. (“Schools Get NCLB Relief From Storms,” this issue.)

Short-Term Fixes

In its emergency meeting Sept. 27, the Louisiana board of elementary and secondary education decided to keep all of the state’s accountability requirements for districts intact for the 2005-06 school year. The only rule it relaxed is its policy against social promotion, which requires 4th and 8th graders to pass reading and mathematics tests before being promoted for the 2006-07 school year. The change is effective for the current school year.

The rule applies throughout the state, including in rural areas hit more recently by Hurricane Rita.

The board also approved a plan that will allow Louisiana high school students to earn a diploma from the state even if they complete their education in another state. To do so, they would need to complete Louisiana’s course requirements for graduation and pass Louisiana’s exit exam.

In addition, the board gave Mr. Picard the authority to approve districts’ revised calendars that fall short of the state’s mandated school-attendance time as a result of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

In Mississippi, lawmakers opened a special session Sept. 27 with the chief aim of revitalizing the hurricane-shattered casino industry in the area along the Gulf Coast, but they took up the school accountability bill at the request of state education officials.

Attendance Waivers

The Mississippi legislature had nearly completed work on a bill late last week that would give the state school board the power to decide which districts damaged by Hurricane Katrina would not be rated under the state accountability system this school year.

While all districts would be expected to participate in the state’s assessment program, Jason S. Dean, the education adviser to Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, said the state board could decide not to publish the district’s state accountability score, which can range from 1 to 5.

The Mississippi Department of Education also asked that the legislature suspend the agency’s line-item budget to allow for more spending flexibility, as many districts are seeking financial aid from the state to help them reopen schools.

The lawmakers also passed a resolution supporting the state’s request for federal disaster aid, which includes a call for more than $1.8 billion for Mississippi districts hit by Hurricane Katrina and those that have enrolled students displaced by the storm. (“Louisiana, Mississippi Lawmakers to Weigh Revenue Needs,” Sept. 28, 2005)

Lawmakers vowed to keep last week’s session brief, and state officials warned that the legislature would most likely need to return to deal with other education policy issues.

In a memo to Gov. Barbour’s office last week, state education officials said that coastal school districts might need the authority to set higher property-tax rates than state law currently allows.

Separately, the Mississippi state school board was scheduled to meet Oct. 5 on the Gulf Coast to visit schools damaged or destroyed by hurricane winds and floodwaters, said Joy Milam, a spokeswoman for the state department of education.

The board was prepared to consider waivers of the number of required school days in coastal districts, she added.

A version of this article appeared in the October 05, 2005 edition of Education Week as Storms Force Louisiana, Mississippi to Review K-12 Policies

Events

School & District Management Live Event EdWeek Leadership Symposium
Education Week's Premier Leadership Event for K12 School & District Leaders.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Law & Courts Webinar
The Future of Criminal Justice Reform: A Sphere Education Initiative Conversation
America’s criminal justice system is in crisis and calls for reform are dominating the national debate. Join Cato’s Sphere Education Initiative and Education Week for a webinar on criminal justice and policing featuring the nation’s
Content provided by Cato Institute
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Equity, Care and Connection: New SEL Tools and Practices to Support Students and Adults
As school districts plan to welcome students back into buildings for the upcoming school year, this is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and our systems to build a
Content provided by Panorama Education

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Accountability Opinion Absenteeism Is the Wrong Student Engagement Metric to Use Right Now
In a post-pandemic era for school accountability, let’s focus on measuring what matters.
Sara Johnson, Annette Anderson & Ruth R. Faden
4 min read
Figure being erased.
Getty
Accountability Biden Education Team Squashes States' Push to Nix All Tests but Approves Other Flexibility
The department has telegraphed its decision to deny states' requests to cancel federally mandated tests for weeks.
3 min read
A first-grader learns keyboarding skills at Bayview Elementary School in San Pablo, Calif on March 12, 2015. Schools around the country are teaching students as young as 6 years old, basic typing and other keyboarding skills. The Common Core education standards adopted by a majority of states call for students to be able to use technology to research, write and give oral presentations, but the imperative for educators arrived with the introduction of standardized tests that are taken on computers instead of with paper and pencils.
The U.S. Department of Education denied some states' requests to cancel standardized tests this year. Others are seeking flexibility from some testing requirements, rather than skipping the assessments altogether.
Eric Risberg/AP
Accountability Explainer Will There Be Standardized Tests This Year? 8 Questions Answered
Educators want to know: Will the exams happen? If so, what will they look like, and how will the results be used?
12 min read
Students testing.
Getty
Accountability Opinion What Should School Accountability Look Like in a Time of COVID-19?
Remote learning is not like in person, and after nine months of it, data are revealing how harmful COVID-19 has been to children's learning.
6 min read
Image shows a speech bubble divided into 4 overlapping, connecting parts.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty and Laura Baker/Education Week