The number of public schools that face state sanctions could explode next year when minimum school scores are raised again, according to state figures.
A total of 155 schools are now on an “academic watch list,” which means they are below the minimum score needed to avoid intervention by state officials.
That includes 15 schools in the East Baton Rouge Parish school system and one charter school, based on estimates provided by the state Department of Education.
“We are going to be focusing on those schools, what they need,” said Lizabeth Frischhertz, chief accountability officer for the system.
The projected 155 schools are nearly double the 79 that failed to meet the minimum standards announced on Tuesday. The number also represents 11 percent of the public schools statewide.
Under current rules, schools have to score at least 65 out of about 200 to avoid being classified as an academically unacceptable school, and the target of state sanctions.
The scores are based mostly on test results as well as dropout and attendance rates.
State officials announced Tuesday that 79 public schools scored below the minimum required, a 65 percent increase over last year.
Six East Baton Rouge Parish schools joined that list on Tuesday and one escaped the label.
However, the minimum score will rise to 75 next year.
The 155 academic watch list schools have a score of between 65 and 74.9, which means they are on the clock to improve or face sanctions.
Backers say the increased standards are aimed at improving student performance.
Even the new minimum score of 65 means that 61 percent of students at the school are performing below grade level, they note.
Frischhertz said she is optimistic, in part, because the number of East Baton Rouge Parish schools improved from 26 last year to 15 this time. She also noted gains at other schools.
Penny Dastugue, president of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, said history shows tougher standards mean more schools will face state sanctions, then show some gains.
“Historically what is measured and reported gets attention and that is the hope here,” Dastugue said in an email response to questions.
Michael Faulk, the new president of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents, said the state’s top School Board might want to take another look at next year’s minimum required score of 75 in light of how many schools are below it now.
“Going up 10 points in one year is a lot on a school performance score,” said Faulk, who is superintendent of the Central Community School District.
The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted in January 2010 to raise the minimum score from 60 to 65 this year and to 75 next year.
Faulk noted that superintendents favored a five point increase per year over three years.
Schools that fail to meet the minimum score face sanctions that can begin with steps like after-school tutoring.
However, if they fail to make adequate improvements they can be targets of state takeovers after four years.