Letters to the Editor


On Nov. 22, The Advertiser printed yet another political attack on our students. I'd like to address that commentary [by Lafayette Parish School board member David Thibodaux] point by point, to try to clear up some inaccuracies.

The exit of N.P. Moss Middle school from state sanctions should not be passed over so lightly. For a school with a 90 percent poverty rate to increase its scores by five points in one year is extraordinary.

Although the state didn't use Iowa scores this year in calculating School Performance Scores, or SPS, it isn't accurate to imply that some students weren't tested, or that their scores weren't counted. All students were tested, and all their test scores were used in calculating this year's SPS. The test changed ' as was required by No Child Left Behind, a federal law.

The problem of struggling readers is not "passed through." Every child from grades 3 through 10 is tested on reading, and all of those scores are used to calculate the schools' SPS. Like almost every other school district in the United States, we have a large number of struggling readers at the middle school level. This issue is something our district continues to address, using research-based reading strategies ' even though some board members do not support those efforts.

Regarding a continuing attempt to compare this year's scores to last year's scores, I will say this: As state accountability officials told board members at a board workshop last month, this year's SPS cannot be compared to that of previous years, because the accountability system has changed. State officials in charge of the system made it crystal clear to everyone who was listening that NCLB mandated changes prevent comparison of this year's scores to the scores of any previous year.

The calculations and accusations in the commentary are not based on reality. Actually, 17 schools met or exceeded the state-mandated growth target, not six. That is according to the summary sent to us by state officials.

Also, Lafayette's scores have not dropped every year since 2001. Lafayette's ranking has dropped as other districts have grown at a faster rate than Lafayette, and more districts have been created.

I'd also like to address the attack on the children and families who came here after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. First, the state recognized the impact these children could have on our scores and came up with a new policy to address major disasters. It's not an excuse, it is reality.

Regarding our decision to place these children in the schools closest to their new homes, firstly this decision is governed by federal law, which sets out the definition of "homeless" and creates strict requirements as to how those children are handled. Secondly, when these families arrived in Lafayette seeking shelter, help and normalcy, we made decisions based on humanitarian reasons. Frankly, the last thing on my mind at that time was how these children might impact our scores. These families were in crisis, and we did the best we could to help them.

There was a comparison made to Acadia Parish Schools. The parents, students and staff of that parish should be proud of their accomplishments, and I don't mean to belittle them. In fact, I have high regard for Superintendent Johnny Bourque. But let me point out that 61 percent of Lafayette's schools showed growth. And let's look at some other facts: 23 percent of Acadia's schools are 3-star schools, compared to 37 percent of Lafayette's schools; 35 percent of Acadia's schools are two-star schools, compared to 42 percent of Lafayette's schools. And, 31 percent of Acadia's schools are 1-star schools, compared to only 21 percent of Lafayette's schools. Neither district has any four star schools, nor any academically unacceptable schools.

Finally, I have no problem being held accountable for the hard work of our boys and girls, their parents and our teachers. I expect more from all of them, but I also am proud of what they have accomplished so far. I believe that supporting their work and keeping high expectations will have positive results. On the other hand, I do not believe that constantly focusing on the negative, or fabricating the negative, will help any child learn to read.