A teachers union leader criticized the academic performance of Louisiana’s first all-grades online charter school on Tuesday.
The principal of Louisiana Connections Academy, Caroline Wood, heatedly disputed the remarks by Wayne Free, assistant executive director of the Louisiana Association of Educators.
“To not accurately look at the achievement of our students because of a political agenda I just think is a little irresponsible,” Wood said.
Wood’s school, which has an office on Goodwood Boulevard, relies on computers, email and web conferencing so students can navigate the school year.
About 550 students attended the school in its first year that just ended, including about 100 in Baton Rouge.
In March, the state’s top school board approved a 1,000 enrollment cap for students from kindergarten through 12th grade for the 2012-13 school year.
Free said Louisiana Connections Academy and the state’s other virtual charter school “scored below state averages in practically every area of performance this year,” a reference to standardized tests students took in the spring.
LAE officials often criticize charter schools, which they say harm traditional public schools, and opposed the move to raise the enrollment cap at Wood’s school.
Free primarily cited the results of LEAP, a skills test given to fourth- and eighth-graders, and iLEAP, a test of given to students in grades three, five, six and seven.
For instance, 75 percent of fourth-graders statewide scored “basic” and above, the middle of five categories, on the English part of LEAP this year compared with 68 percent of students at Louisiana Connections Academy.
Among eighth-graders, 64 percent scored “basic” and above on the math portion of LEAP compared with 53 percent of students at the academy.
On iLEAP, students statewide also scored higher on “basic” and above on English and math for third-graders and English and math for sixth-graders, according to figures cited by Free.
Wood accused Free of selectively citing test results in a way that downplayed solid showings by her students.
She said her students had a higher proficiency rate than students statewide on nine LEAP and iLEAP tests, outpaced students statewide in fifth-grade science, social studies, math and English tests and excelled in end-of-course tests given to high school students, which she said Free omitted.
Wood said 93 percent of students passed the geometry end-of-course exam, 95 percent passed the English test and 94 percent passed the biology test, all exceeding the state average.
“I need the public to understand that we are held to the same accountability standards as every public school in the state,” Wood said.
BESE authorized the higher enrollment cap for Wood’s school in part because backers said there was heavy parental demand for seats.
Free said state education officials have been reluctant to explore the academic performance of students at the school because it would expose weaknesses in education reform efforts.