As previously noted, in evaluating Louisiana’s scholarship voucher program, competing arguments are heard about how to measure the quality of the participating proprietary schools. Its opponents often argue that a grading system like that used for public schools should be employed, but not only does this have implementation difficulties, it also serves as a distraction from the real issue at hand.
In the state, public schools receive an annual grade that is at least half determined by progress in learning with factors of diploma completion (high school) and course credits earned (high school and middle school), all the way to progress being the sole determinant (elementary school). Until this past year, with one exception the only benefit provided by this system was acting as an information device for families to get some idea of how their school matched up to others and to an ideal. The exceptional benefit was that schools which consistently had the lowest, failing grade could become subject to corrective action. Thus, the only policy benefit that the system had was to create an incentive for the worst schools to improve or lose autonomy of varying degrees.
This left the large majority of public schools in the state unaffected by any policy levers that the grade could induce to improve their performances. Scores might have public relations and morale ramifications, but they carried no consequences as A and D scored schools were treated the same. But with the advent of the voucher program, suddenly these grades mattered, for now students from lower-income families could bail out of a D school, and even a C school under certain conditions, along with those of the F (failing) schools.