Taylor: ‘Safe harbor’ needed for improving schools

A proposal that State Superintendent John White announced Thursday to shield school districts from dropping more than one letter grade when tougher academic standards take full effect next year may not go far enough, said the superintendent of public schools in Baton Rouge.

Superintendent Bernard Taylor told the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board on Thursday that White’s proposal is good, but may send the wrong message to schools that have struggled to improve their way of out of academic trouble only to fall back behind simply because of higher standards.

“My great concern is that a lot of hard work by a lot of good people will be for nought,” Taylor said.

In August, the school system learned that 12 of its schools had improved their way from F to D grades. Taylor suggested the state may consider a “safe harbor” agreement that would not undermine such improvement.

“You have many schools that have moved significant number of students to higher proficiency, by may not have letter grades that reflect that.”

White announced the proposal Thursday at a meeting of his Superintendent Advisory Council, and he plans in December to bring it to the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The proposal aims to limit how far district performance scores might drop when more rigorous classroom standards, known as Common Core, come into full effect in the 2014-15 school year.

In other action, the board hired suburban Atlanta-based Soliant Health to provide an audiologist for children with hearing problems at a cost not to exceed $75,000 a year. The audiologist in the contract is Christine Bartelt, who will earn about $60 an hour plus mileage for about 30 hours a week of work.

Diane Atkins, associate superintendent for instructional support and pupil services, said the school system previously had an audiologist on staff who retired and decided Soliant offered the best option to continue the services.