Four troubled public schools in the East Baton Rouge Parish school system will operate under less restrictive state oversight under a plan approved Tuesday morning by Louisiana’s top school board.
The sites are Capitol Elementary School, Capitol Middle School, Park Elementary School and Winbourne Elementary School.
All four operate under legal agreements with the state called memorandums of understanding.
The agreements are one step short of a total state takeover of a public school, which means they enter the Recovery School District to try to improve student achievement.
RSD Superintendent Patrick Dobard told the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education that changes are needed because the schools have failed to show adequate improvements.
“We just felt like we weren’t really getting a lot of use out of the MOUs the way they originated,” Dobard said in an interview on Tuesday.
Trimming the state oversight, he said, is also in line with the state’s recent push to improve public schools by giving more authority to officials closest to the students.
Public schools in Louisiana have to achieve scores of at least 75 to avoid being labeled as academically unsatisfactory.
The scores are mostly a reflection of how students fared on standardized tests.
In 2011, Capitol Elementary School had a score of 61.3 and an F minus rating from the state.
Capitol Middle School had a score of 65.2 and a D rating.
Park Elementary School had a score of 66.5 and a D minus rating.
Winbourne Elementary School had a score of 66.8 and a D rating.
Dobard said that, under the change, the state would be less likely to recommend specific reading programs, or how to intervene with struggling students, than in the past.
“It is a matter for them to determine what they need the most,” he said of local school leaders.
Dobard said if the schools show solid gains in the next year – such as, five or more points in their school performance scores – they can continue to operate under the memorandum of understanding.
He said gains may pave the way for the East Baton Rouge Parish school system to convert the sites to a charter school, which is a public school run by a non-governmental board.
Charter schools are supposed to offer innovative classroom methods.
Dobard said if the schools fail to show solid gains they may become charter schools overseen by the state.
Chas Roemer, a BESE member from Baton Rouge, said while the change is subtle the results are what matter.
“We expect outcomes,” Roemer said. “If we don’t get them we will try something different.”
Connie Bradford, a BESE member from Ruston, praised the change as one that puts responsibilities with local school officials.