Special BESE Meeting: May 2022
On Thursday, May 5th, across the street from the Capitol, BESE held a Special Board Meeting. The main discussion focused on whether or not high school seniors should be exempt from certain LEAP 2025 graduation requirements. The proposed exception would have been temporary and due to COVID, but as Superintendent Dr. Brumley pointed out, this has been a problem that predates COVID. “This is hard every year, I have been a school principal and I have had these parents, these kids in my office that have gotten so close, but they just didn’t make it. Often times, they’re waiting on the result the day of graduation potentially, and the worst case is when that result doesn’t come back the way you want it.”
According to the Louisiana Department of Education, in 2019 4% of students failed to graduate as a result of not having one of their End-of-Course Assessments (EOCs) completed successfully. In 2021, that number would have been 6% (had it not been for COVID exemptions), and in 2022 (as of the morning of May 5th) that number is 7% (or about 2,400 students). Dr. Brumley added that his team expects the number for this year to decrease as more data becomes available.
BESE Member Holly Boffy, who has been a long-time advocate for these types of assessments, made the motion to allow for an exception to the requirements for this year. Currently, Dr. Boffy serves as a school principal and has now come face-to-face with students who are unable to graduate because they failed one of these standardized tests. Many educators have been criticizing the usefulness and legitimacy of these high stakes tests for years because of situations just like the one Dr. Boffy is currently dealing with at her school. These problems have been a persistent feature of Louisiana’s broken accountability system.
Many advocates testified before the Board highlighting the difficulty students have faced over the last three years. BESE Member Dr. Doris Voitier commented that “These kids have been operating under a handicap for the past three years…This year, for this class, have some humanity in here."
After a lengthy discussion, the Board voted against the proposed exceptions to LEAP 2025 graduation requirements. Dr. Holly Boffy, Mr. Preston Castille, Dr. Belinda Davis, Mr. Thomas Roque, and Ms. Doris Voitier voted in favor of the exceptions while Mr. Ronnie Morris, Ms. Sandy Holloway, and Mr. James Garvey voted against. Ms. Ashley Ellis, Mr. Michael Melanchie and Ms. Kira Orange-Jones did not attend the meeting and therefore their lack-of-a-vote counts against the motion.
The Board did, however, unanimously approve a waiver to certain graduation requirements for School Districts wherein the Governor declared an Emergency due to Hurricane Ida. The exemption was approved for this school year.