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Louisiana School Board Association



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Re-routing: Good for the Goose? Good for the Gander - Thursday, November 13, 2008
Re-routing: Good for the Goose? Good for the Gander!
 
Nolton Senegal, Sr.
Executive Director
Louisiana School Boards Association
 
The State Superintendent of Education says that several local public school districts are “cooking the books” by re-routing test scores from their local magnet schools to neighborhood schools from which magnet school students were transferred.
 
It should be noted that these magnet schools maintain higher standards of achievement, and that students, in order to be admitted to the magnets, are among the highest performers.
 
Local districts, in favor of giving high performing students an opportunity to be all that they can be, create this “brain drain” from neighborhood schools. At any time that these higher performing students fail to meet academic expectations they are expected back into the neighborhood schools from which they departed.
 
On the flip side of the coin there are alternative schools, disciplinary academies, options programs, and schools for jailed juveniles. The test scores of students who fall from neighborhood schools into these distressed schools are REQUIRED to be re-routed to the neighborhood schools from which the students departed. Handbook 111 section 3503 specifically orders local districts to re-route scores from these troubled schools back to their neighborhood schools.
 
The specific language in Handbook 111 says: “The assessment results, and beginning in 2008 with the Baseline SPS, the dropout, and graduation data for every alternative education student at a routing alternative school shall be returned to ("sent back") and included in the home-based school's and district's accountability calculations for both the SPS and subgroup components.”
 
This policy was ordered by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, and recommended by the State Department of Education prior to Superintendent Pastorek becoming involved in the issue.
 
In September the Times-Picayune reported that “Scott Norton, director of standards, assessments and accountability for the state Department of Education, said routing scores back to attendance-district schools is not unusual.

"This is one place where the accountability policy provides some local flexibility, which we feel is important," he said. "Some magnet schools route the scores, and some don't. Neither method is considered right or wrong, and whether one or the other gives a false impression would be a matter of opinion."
 
Well Dr. Norton, who manages Mr. Pastorek’s nationally acclaimed accountability program, has a lot of company from the superintendents and schools boards all across Louisiana.
 
Opinions are that Mr. Pastorek is overstepping his bounds in ordering the East Baton Rouge Parish Public School Board plan to start re-routing be blocked. At the initial meeting of the accountability commission voices were raised to question Pastorek’s position. He had chosen not to attend his own commission meeting and action on the issue was deferred so that he could provide a rationale for his position.
 
If cooking the books is the result of re-routing of high performing magnet school scores to neighborhood schools, then the re-routing ordered in Handbook 111 must also be seen as cooking the books on the down side of neighborhood performance scores. Can fairness to the neighborhood schools of Louisiana be seen in such a double standard?
 
Of course there are some potential reasons why such a policy might be taken. First, if the alternative schools are left to stand alone, then the state department of education will face the prospect of having to incorporate them into the Recovery School District and DOE will assume responsibility for turning around their performance.
 
Second, forcing the poorest performing students’ scores back into the neighborhood schools, to which they no longer attend, negatively impacts the school performance scores of those schools and inflates the underperforming numbers all across the state. Viewing this reason in the context of Mr. Pastorek’s reliance on negative performance to seek greater funding this might be seen as method to madness.
 
The Louisiana School Board Association believes that the current policy that permits re-routing magnet school scores is a sound counterbalance to the required re-routing of alternative student scores. If the policy must be changed, then re-routing should be abandoned all together.