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LA should not enable EBRPSS special snowflakes

Looks like a blizzard has hit the East Baton Rouge Parish School System, as educators complain about heavy rain nearly six months ago making it too hard to do their jobs.

Some personnel from displaced schools as a result of record August flooding allege that their elementary school pupils remain traumatized long after the fact, freaking out whenever it rains. So scarred, in fact, that they deserve a pass from the state in taking online standardized tests. They also argue that less ability to get students familiar with the online format also contributes to the necessity of cancelling the testing.

Boo-hoo. In 1979, less than a month before classes began, my hometown Alvin, TX, suffered the greatest one-day rainfall amount in North American history, 43 inches in one part of town (it probably was only about 40 where we lived). Water reached 18 inches in my family's house, but we knew people whose houses went completely underwater.

We were seniors in high school that year, and Alvin High and Alvin Junior High buildings only got negligible amounts of water, but all the other schools went under. In the couple of weeks before school started, for my Eagle Scout project – to become an Eagle, which I would do months later, you had to devise and execute a service project – I rounded up a few of my fellow Boy Scouts (who were biological males in those days) and we took to moving supplies, furniture, and cleaning up at AJHS which served as a Red Cross shelter. But come the beginning of the fall semester, both campuses reverted to their educational missions.

As my bedroom was uninhabitable, I spent that semester sleeping on a fold-out couch in the living room, walking on bare floors as all the carpet had to be pulled up,. Doors wouldn’t close because the walls were so saturated with water, so throughout the house there was a constant drone of dehumidifiers (by early next year, the doors finally could be shut and the new carpet laid). At first, extension cords went everywhere from the few outlets that worked. In the late summer workers were constantly coming and going, pulling drywall and insulation, fixing the electrical system, and replacing plumbing and appliances (yes, my father, a civil engineer who specialized in water pollution control, had flood insurance so we didn’t have to spend much out of pocket, but it took months in some cases to get things done because so many families were in the same boat).

Somehow, none of this scarred me for life. In fact, I don’t remember much more about life then than what I just wrote, so little did it impress me. (Recently I had to remind my brother that he had to sleep on a couch for a short while but his bedroom, the highest part of the house, became habitable much more quickly, none of which he remembered.) Granted, we were teenagers, but neither did I ever hear of any younger child in town reduced to panic and tears whenever in the years to come drops came down, nor by their having to spend a semester at AJHS away from familiar environs. Nor did the teachers, many of whom had their own houses flooded, complain; they just rolled up their sleeves and got back to the business of educating even as many shared similar recovery stories with the Sadow clan.

By contrast, the testimony of these Baton Rouge school employees implies their pupils have experienced and need radically different socialization; rather than having to confront the implications of and deal with the impact of adverse events in their lives, children are to be coddled and protected from whatever rain falls on their lives. In short, we have a generation in the EBRPSS treated like sugar babies, who need sheltering from life lest they melt in the rain.

Yet upon closer inspection, the actual special snowflakes here aren’t the children, but the educators themselves. As part of their call to negate testing, they assert that the state should exempt their schools from accountability grading on that basis, claiming that the fragile students’ performances, exacerbated by teachers having to adjust to the new environment at replacement schools, would distort downwards the schools’ actual merit.

The state Department of Education already waived a number of regulations stemming from the flooding, while others have called for a moratorium on assigning gradesEast Baton Rouge scores a mediocre C – to several districts for the year. DOE has said it could make changes after the fact if test results reveal problems.

That’s a sensible approach. EBRPSS scores have trended downwards over the last few years and the system currently teeters on falling a letter grade. From the district’s perspective, by removing from consideration a few lower-performing schools affected by flooding this increases the chances of it scoring higher, and from the perspective of the schools involved their exemption ultimately could reduce the chances of the schools lapsing into failing territory, which would threaten the staff’s jobs.

Telling all parties to work through adversity while promising to review outcomes discourages using the unhappy event as an excuse to slack off, as well as sets a good example for the children. For its tax dollars the public needs not to enable special snowflake behavior among students or educators.

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