Zachary’s school system maintained its status as the No. 1 district in Louisiana in the 2014-15 school year, but recent changes to assessments have made it more difficult to measure students’ growth, school board members were told during a work session Tuesday.
All of Zachary’s schools received an A rating in a report recently released by the state Department of Education, a position the district has held for several years, said Yolanda Williams, the district’s director of human resources. The district also is ahead of the national average on the EXPLORE test, which eighth-graders take to measure college readiness.
Teacher performance improved slightly last school year, with the score rising from 3.64 to 3.66 out of a possible 4.
The state sends indicator reports every year to superintendents with information on teacher and student performance.
The school district has endured budget cuts, Williams said, and teachers have had to make curriculum changes to accommodate new high-stakes tests and Common Core standards the state has introduced. Schools’ scores may dip whenever current curricula do not cover the same material required by new tests or standards, she said.
“Most times we have to find the gaps in our curriculum, and find out what we need to do,” Williams said, adding that score fluctuations are not always teachers’ fault.
The district began administering the ACT Aspire college readiness test this year to get a better handle on students’ academic growth between grades 3 and 8. Superintendent Scott Devillier said he has no consistent measures of progress because the state keeps changing which tests it requires students to take.
“For five years we’ve had a different test,” he said. “How do you get reliability out of that? That’s why we moved to ACT Aspire.”
During its meeting, the board heard from Nnamdi Thompson, of Government Consultants of Louisiana Inc., which handles the district’s debt issues. The firm is hoping to refinance some of the district’s bonds to save about $900,000 for the life of those bonds by locking in lower interest rates available now, Thompson said. The board will vote on the sale at a later meeting.
“There’s going to be a market for Zachary school district bonds. They’re highly rated,” Thompson said, adding that the district has held a AA credit rating with Standard & Poors.
The board also recognized Zachary High School student Curtis Hooper for his contributions to the drama program and several Copper Mill Elementary School fifth-graders who placed in a recent statewide math olympiad. The Delta Kappa Gamma sorority also presented an award to Roberto Cardenas, who teaches Spanish at Zachary High School.