BESE Tours Ouachita and Jackson Parish Schools

BESE Tours Ouachita and Jackson Parish Schools

On Monday and Tuesday, education professionals are getting the chance to voice their opinions and discuss the new policies as BESE tours area schools.
JACKSON PARISH -- Louisiana's Board of Elementary And Secondary Education has seen it's share of controversy the last couple of years.
New standards put in place, from teacher evaluations to core curriculum, are being challenged by local districts and teachers. On Monday and Tuesday, education professionals are getting the chance to voice their opinions and discuss the new policies.

"One of the things I wanted our board members to do was get out of the state capitol building," said said BESE President Chas Roemer. "You get good reports and people telling you what they think, but it's not the same as seeing it first hand. So this tour has been a chance for us to go around and hear first hand what professionals like, what they don't like, things that they want to see different."

Teacher morale, the GED, and career choices are among the many things laid on the table this week during BESE's tour across Ouachita and Jackson Parishes.

When we raise rigor, it causes anxiety. It causes pressure. And I want people to know I understand that," said Roemer.

Roemer, and other board members visited Neville, Jonesboro-Hodge and Quitman High Schools on Monday. The schools on their tour this week showed significant growth in student achievement and Top Gains status.

"Each one of our schools improved 10 points on school performance scores," said Jackson Parish Schools superintendent Wayne Alford. "I'm very proud of each school and our teachers."

"We want to see if there's any common denominators, see if they're saying and doing the same things, or are they doing things differently," said Roemer.

BESE discussed changes and other issues with local school leaders, including how schools are graded.

"We talked about making the playing field level, because all schools are different." said Principal Ted Reeves of Jonesboro-Hodge High School. "If you're going to grade us as schools, you can't put us all in the same basket."

Alford said one of the main issues discussed was teacher morale in district over the Compass Evaluation System and the Value Added Model in rating teachers.

"We want to make sure it reliable and valid for our teachers," said Alford.

They also talked about the common core curriculum, the new academic standards dictating what students should be able to do in math and English at the end of every grade.  Louisiana students will start being tested on them this December.

"We need to know what we need to teach," said Alford. "We felt like we needed to have more direction from the state department for our teachers."

They also discussed dual-enrollment and how it's working for many students. 

"We had a class at Weston High School where there received 15 credits before they went to college, so that's what our parents want," said Alford.

Roemer says he understands the visits are not always flattering.

"Our job, is how do we make those transitions when we increase standards which we need to do in this state? We're ranked last or next to last in most categories in K-12 education," said Roemer.

School leaders say they need more time to make those transitions into the common core.

"Transition time is very critical, i think they've kind of jumped the gun a little bit." said principal Steve Shovan of Quitman High School. "When you change an entire curriculum like that, a lot of times you might want to start at the bottom and work your way up."

Roemer said a transition policy is in the near future. He also added that he wants schools to know that his board is listening.

"It can be frustrating when you're an actual teacher or an administrator, to feel like the state is putting rules on you and that they don't actually understand what's happening in the school building," said Roemer.

The BESE members wrapped up Monday at Neville High School. On Tuesday, they'll visit several schools in Monroe and West Monroe.

Roemer said they will do a parent forum the next time they come back to Northeast Louisiana, where parents can meet and discuss with BESE members.
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