Recent data from the Louisiana Department of Education has Iberville schools Superintendent Ed Cancienne hopeful the district will ascend into the above-average range in the state’s upcoming district performance report.

Iberville schools went from having 38 percent of its students score basic or above on state academic tests in 2014 to 59 percent of them scoring basic or above in 2015. That increase made it the third most improved district in the state, according to the state Department of Education.

The parish’s graduation rate also now exceeds the state average, and the district is seeing improvement in the average number of high school students scoring 18 or better on the ACT test.

“It’s very encouraging,” said Cancienne. “I’m hoping that we’ll be a B school system this year and our school scores will improve, too.”

Cancienne attributes some of the success to the district’s efforts to provide more school choice programs. The district now has several magnet programs with specialized curriculums in areas like engineering, science and regional culture, which draw students from different attendance zones.

Cancienne recently shared the new data, which he received from the state Department of Education, with the School Board.

Board President Darlene Ourso described the data as encouraging but said the district still has work to do before she’s satisfied.

“We’ve improved, no doubt,” she said. “We’re happy we’ve improved, but we also know we have a lot of gains to cover. I want to wait and see what the actual scores are from the state.”

Department of Education officials say the 2015 district performance scores will be released in December.

For quite some time, Iberville’s district performance score remained a D, according to annual reports between 2007 and 2012.

The Department of Education uses students’ individual scores on state standardized tests as well as attendance and graduation rates to grade each school district.

Iberville was given a C in 2013 and 2014, scoring 78.7 and 83.0 percent, respectively.

In the preliminary data Cancienne presented to the School Board, the district is noted for its 16-point gain in its districtwide score from 2008 to 2012.

The percentage of third- to eighth-grade students in the parish scoring basic or above on the state’s more rigorous PARCC assessment equaled the state average of 65 percent in 2014.

“What that really tells us is that even though tests got harder, it appears teachers have made the shift because they gained in the percentile ranking,” said Melissa Stilley, network leader with the Department of Education.

The district’s ninth- through 12th-graders also had double-digit improvement in their end-of-course assessments in English III, geometry, biology and U.S. history over the last three years. According to Stilley’s report, English III scores improved by 16 percent, geometry scores increased 11 percent, biology scores were up 17 percent and U.S. history scores rose by 34.4 percent between 2013-15.

For eight years, Iberville fell short of the state’s graduation rate average but finally surpassed it in the 2012-13 school year when it saw 74 percent of its high school students graduate on time. That year, the state’s average graduation rate was 73.5 percent.

And more of the parish’s high school graduates are qualifying for TOPS scholarship awards since student’s average composite scores on the ACT have gradually improved from year-to-year. TOPS, Taylor Opportunity Program for Students, is a state program that pays college tuition for students who meet requirements.

“All of this indicates that there is good classroom instruction and good leadership going on at our schools,” Cancienne said.

Ourso echoed Cancienne’s statement, praising the district’s teachers, but said she’d like to see students averaging at least a 20 or better on the ACT.

“In order to get into a lot of these schools, like LSU, you need to have a 20 or above,” she said. “To me, 18 is still low.”

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