Confusion over summer school requirements in Rapides Parish after BESE change during the school year

There is some confusion over the summer school required for certain Rapides Parish elementary school students.
Published: Apr. 26, 2023 at 6:56 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 26, 2023 at 7:06 PM CDT
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RAPIDES PARISH, La. (KALB) - There is some confusion over the summer school required for certain Rapides Parish elementary school students. Some local parents have reached out to News Channel Five looking for clarification on claims that their children will have to go to school this June or not be promoted to the next grade level due to reading levels.

Currently, only 38 percent of students in Louisiana are reading at their grade level, leading the Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, or BESE, to update one of its bulletins just two months ago in February. Under bulletin 1566, starting this school year, any Louisiana student enrolled in third or fourth grade that scores below grade level on an approved end-of-the-year literacy assessment must get 30 hours of literacy instruction during the summer, or risk not being promoted to the next grade level.

“Beginning with the 2022-2023 school year, and continuing through the summer following the 2023-2024 school year, any student enrolled in third or fourth grade and scoring below grade level on the end-of-the-year LDOE-approved literacy assessment shall receive a minimum of 30 hours of explicit literacy instruction inclusive of targeted interventions during the summer. The literacy instruction shall be based on the science of reading.

Students not participating in the required summer literacy interventions may be retained in the grade level during the subsequent school year. Such retention shall be included in each local pupil progression plan.”

Updated BESE Bulletin 1566

That decision by BESE then fell down to the parish school boards, with Rapides updating its Pupil Progression Plan just last month to reflect the changes.

Pupil Progression Plan updated by RPSB in March 2023
Pupil Progression Plan updated by RPSB in March 2023(Rapides Parish School Board)

KALB learned of the move a week ago, when a local parent was informed that their student was in the group required to attend the Rapides Parish summer program at Cherokee Elementary. That program is from June 5 to June 29 and requires a student to go every day, Monday through Thursday. One of the parents notified was Thomas Davenport, who has a second grader who attends an RPSB school. Despite his child passing his classes and not being in the third or fourth grade, the message was still that his son could be held back, despite what he said is no previous warning from the district.

“This is the issue for me,” said Davenport. “If a parent cannot rely on grades anymore and there is no LEAP testing, or high stakes testing in the second grade. So, this was a total shock to us, and I would have to assume anyone else who has a child in the second grade.”

As it turns out, Davenport’s son is not required to attend the summer session due to his grade. Again, BESE’s requirement is only for third and fourth graders. We asked Rapides Parish Superintendent Jeff Powell how many students this will affect in the parish. He could not give us an exact answer but did share that only 42 percent of RPSB students are reading at grade level. Again, this is all dependent on an end-of-the-year literacy assessment. We also asked about the timing, knowing that some parents were informed of this just last week, with a required time for most of June when many already have summer plans.

“I think anytime somebody is being mandated to go to summer school, it probably would create a conflict,” said Powell. “Again, what we are concerned with is whether or not students can read, that is our focus. Yeah, it’s probably not normal for BESE to adopt a policy change mid-stream, but it does not mean it is not the right thing to do in terms of student literacy.”

These new requirements for literacy will continue past this year, so any third or fourth-grade students in the future would also be required to take the summer program.

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