Public schools in the greater Baton Rouge area received grades ranging from As to Fs Wednesday as the Louisiana Department of Education for the first time assigned letter grades to schools.
Zachary once again topped the rankings for the entire state, earning an A for its entire school district. It was the seventh year in a row this small school district topped the rankings. Four out of its six schools earned As as well.
To honor this distinction, the city’s chamber of commerce is planning a “Community Celebration” Monday night.
St. Helena Parish ranked at the bottom of the state rankings, making it the only school district in the state to earn an F. Both of its schools earned Fs as well. The school district, however, did see its overall district score grow 0.7.
Central was the second-highest ranked school district in the greater Baton Rouge area and seventh overall in the state.
Three of Central’s five schools earned As. The overall district average, however, was weighed down a bit by Central Intermediate and Central Middle schools, which earned a B and a C respectively.
Ascension Parish ranked ninth statewide, with six schools earning As. It had a much wider distribution of scores among its 26 ranked schools. Six Ascension schools earned Ds and one, Donalsonville Primary School, earned an F.
Livingston Parish was right behind Ascension in 10th place in the state. Its distribution range was much narrower. None of its schools earned As or Fs, though Walker Freshman High School earned a D, missing a C by 1.1 points.
Twenty-nine of Livingston Parish’s 42 ranked schools earned Bs.
West Baton Rouge Parish was firmly in the middle of the pack, ranking 27 of 70 districts in the state.
Superintendent David Corona took West Baton Rouge’s results in stride.
“It means we’re an average district. We’re a C district,” he said. “We’ve had five straight years of improvement, and we’re going to continue to get better.”
East Baton Rouge Parish, the second-largest school district in the state, overall had a good year. It was ranked 48th in the state, the first time it has cracked the top 50, and grew 4.2 points overall.
“We still have a lot of work to do, but we are growing steadily and continue to look at what is working at our successful schools and if we can apply it in other schools,” Superintendent John Dilworth said in a statement. “We are headed in the right direction. This is some of the best growth this district has ever had.”
Much of the growth came from high schools that benefited from higher graduation rates, a statewide phenomenon, said Liz Frischhertz, chief accountability officer for the East Baton Rouge Parish school system.
The new letter grade rating system — replacing the old hotel-style star system — meant bragging rights for selective magnet schools.
Seven East Baton Rouge Parish schools earned As, the most in the greater Baton Rouge area. Of those, only Parkview Elementary School has neighborhood children; it also has some students identified as gifted.
The highest-ranking school in the parish school system without a magnet or gifted program was Ryan Elementary, which earned a C, missing a B by 0.7 of a point. This school earned a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence Award from the federal government in 2010.
Most schools in the East Baton Rouge Parish school system, though, were near the bottom, with 41 earning Ds and 12 earning Fs.
Five of those F schools are new. Four are alternative schools; Louisiana for the first time this year gave school performance scores to all alternative and disciplinary schools.
The fifth new school with an F grade is Inspire Charter Academy, a charter school that just had its first year in operation. The state did not give a school performance score to the Mentorship Academy because it lacked enough data to make a measurement.
The news Wednesday helped two schools.
Belaire High School, which was an F school in late July when the state identified the worst schools in the state, saw its school performance score revised slightly upward, allowing it to earn a D.
Meanwhile, East Baton Rouge Laboratory Academy, a small high school on the campus of Istrouma High, earned a 58.4. In July, it earned a 26.
Frischhertz said the school appealed that score immediately, and the state eventually found out that some students were wrongly listed as being enrolled at the school.
The eight schools run by the state-run Recovery School District did badly on the whole, with seven of eight earning Fs. Kenilworth Science and Technology School barely earned a D.
These schools were taken over by the state for chronic low academic performance.
Capitol High School would have earned an F as well, but it was closed and reopened this fall and is now directly run by the state, so it didn’t receive a school performance score, said Rene Greer, spokeswoman for the state Department of Education.