ERATH — Ask Zane Granger what sets Erath High apart from other schools and the answer comes easily.
“As an Erath High School student you know this is what you’re expected to do. You’re expected to make good grades, graduate and go to college,” said the 16-year-old junior.
Those expectations are laid out to students the first day of classes in meetings Principal Francis Touchet has with each class.
“It starts from Day One,” Touchet said. “The first day of school I meet with students by class and explain what the expectations are … we expect our kids to do well.”
That first day sets the tone for the year — and is what has set the school on a course of continual improvement, said Touchet.
The school’s performance score of 140.8 — a nearly 20-point improvement over the prior year — has it labeled an A+ school and ranked as the top nonselective public school in the state, according to Louisiana Department of Education rankings.
Overall, the school ranked 21st behind 20 selective admissions schools.
Touchet keeps tabs on those schools ranked ahead of Erath and it’s not solely because of the athlete’s competitive spirit. Touchet, his assistant principal and counselors visit some of the state’s top schools each June to learn what’s working there.
Some of the programs are implemented at Erath — like mandatory tutoring either after school or during lunch for failing students and daily in-school tutoring, called intervention, that targets students who are falling behind in a course.
A strong faculty and other programs such as a focus on building students’ reading skills with sustained reading time and Accelerated Reader tests linked to students’ English grades have helped the school continually improve its scores, Touchet said.
Erath High has the hallmarks of a high-performing school: a focus on individual student needs and an effective administration, said Stephanie Funderburk, graduation coordinator for the Louisiana Department of Education’s regional Office of College and Career Readiness.
“If you have those two things, you’re going to be a high-performing school,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what socio-economic area the school is located in.”
Funderburk works with administrators and teachers at Erath High and other high schools in Region IV.
She credited Touchet for researching what’s working in higher-performing schools.
“He’s always looking for great. Good is not enough,” Funderburk said.
The school also has experienced faculty and strong support from its community, Funderburk said.
“That helps in many ways — with the community support and school spirit. All stakeholders exude high, high expectations,” she said.
Touchet also meets with teachers every six weeks to discuss which students need extra help and develop a plan to assist the student.
All freshmen are also required to take an orientation-style class called “Journey to Careers” where freshmen receive extra support in the transition to high school.
“Last year, no freshmen were held back. They were all promoted,” said Angie Lange, guidance counselor.
Those students who don’t make a passing grade at the end of a six-week period meet with Touchet, who also talks to the child’s parent. The student must make a commitment to after-school tutoring. Those who can’t stay after school are tutored during lunch.
Three years ago, the school schedule was rearranged to add an additional 35 minutes of instructional time.
The change enabled the school to institute a 20-minute period after lunch where those students who are falling behind receive intervention tutoring. The tutoring list changes daily depending upon a student’s performance in class that day. Students who are doing well may request to be placed in intervention.
Those who don’t need the extra help attend 20-minute enrichment courses in their choice of dance, chess, public speaking, etiquette, athletics or study hall.
During an intervention tutoring session for algebra students on Oct. 20, teacher Nellie Broussard led students through several equations.
“Big test tomorrow. All of you need to do well,” Broussard told them.
Sophomores Triston Bourque and Khadijah Drain both were in the intervention session. How did they do on their tests the next day?
“I felt very confident when I took (it),” Bourque said. “I’m glad she pulled me into intervention. If she thinks I’m having trouble, she’ll pull me in.”
In response to the same question, Drain sighed and said, “Wonderful!”
Drain said the culture at Erath High makes students want to do their best.
“It’s all about expectations,” Drain said. “I want my teachers to be proud of me. I also want to graduate.”
Students credited their teachers for pushing them. Touchet is also a great motivator and no student wants to get called to the principal’s office, said Granger.
“It’s not fun,” he admitted.
It helps that students’ good work is acknowledged, too, students said.
Students who are on target academically each Friday are rewarded with music in the courtyard during lunch and snow cones or other treats are available for purchase.
There are special rewards for A/B honor roll students, perfect attendance students and those who make a 4.0, Granger said.
This six weeks, Granger’s 4.0 earned him a pass to jump ahead in the lunch line.
“It makes you want to do well,” he said of the rewards.