Facility improvements, dual enrollment program helps Baker High improve from D to C school on latest report card _lowres

Advocate staff file photo by PATRICK DENNIS --Baker High School Honors English teacher Laquisha Comeaux has her class write in their journals before starting instruction last month. Baker High has improved from a D to a C grade on its latest report card.

Baker High School’s improvement from a D to a C school was a result of “a lot of pieces coming together,” Principal Traci Morgan told the School Board on Tuesday night.

Baker High improved in all the areas measured by the state, rising from 58.8 points in 2013-14, a letter grade of D, to 83 points, a letter grade of C, for the 2014-15 school year.

The score leaves the school just two points away from a B grade, board President Elaine Davis pointed out.

“And they assured me that they will be ready on Thursday to begin improving from a C to a B,” she said.

Morgan thanked teachers, parents, staff and the School Board for their contributions to the school’s improvement.

“I believe we have the right people on the right seats on the right bus leading in the right direction,” she said.

She credited the School Board with aiding the school’s turnaround, saying the decision to improve lighting and install new windows and doors, as well as renovate the school’s stadium, auditorium and gym, contributed to “bettering the culture of Baker High.”

“It made the students and teachers realize that we value students,” she said.

She added that the dual enrollment program with Southern University helped raise the school’s graduation index and specifically thanked School Board member Dana Carpenter, a professor at Southern, for helping coordinate the effort.

Thirty-seven percent of Baker High students scored proficient on end-of-course exams in 2014-15, compared with 62 percent of students across the state. Fifty-one percent scored 18 or better on the ACT, indicating “minimum proficiency for college and career success,” according to the state Department of Education, compared with 62 percent statewide. The school’s four-year graduation rate was 82 percent, while the statewide rate was 75 percent. The school’s report card can be found online at Louisianabelieves.com/data/ reportcards/2015/.

Baker High also received 10 progress points in 2014-15, compared with none in 2013-14, accounting for close to 40 percent of its total score improvement.

Progress points allow schools rated B or lower to gain extra points for lower-performing students making gains in math and English. Leaders of the Louisiana School Boards Association and the Council for a Better Louisiana have argued that the progress points allow schools to receive a higher score even though they may still have low-performing students.

When the scores were released Thursday, Scott Richard, executive director of the LSBA, told The Advocate that while he does not want to diminish the gains made by schools, the impact of progress points raises questions about the results.

“Any time the accountability system can be manipulated using a mechanism such as progress points, it always raises eyebrows,” Richard said.

Baker Superintendent Herman Brister, who assumed the position in May, argued Tuesday night that the progress points are fair.

“If we are moving up kids who are academically challenged, that adds value to the score,” Brister said. “It’s doubly hard to move up kids with challenges.”

The Baker school system has held a series of meetings to educate parents and members of the community about the meaning and impact of school report cards. The final meeting will be held 6 p.m. Thursday at Bakerfield Elementary.