New Orleans-area public school districts saw their academic performance hold relatively steady in the first year of standardized exams that were fully aligned with the new Common Core academic standards.

Statewide, exam scores released Thursday showed only a modest dip. Louisiana’s average score went from an 89.2 in 2014 to an 88.8 this year on a 150-point scale, leaving the state with a B rating overall.

The relative consistency, in New Orleans and across the state, is partly by design. State officials applied a curve to prevent any dramatic shifts, holding steady the number of schools that scored at each letter grade. That curve affected the grades of 111 schools.

Students at more than 1,150 elementary, middle and combination schools took the Common Core exams, which do not apply at high schools.

The Common Core state standards — new academic standards for reading, writing and math — and the corresponding tests provided by a consortium known as the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers have caused a big stir in Louisiana and elsewhere in recent years. The tests, which third- through eighth-grade students took in March and May, are generally seen as more rigorous than the old LEAP (Louisiana Educational Assessment Program) test.

Some parents question the new methods teachers are using to prepare students for the exams, though educators typically view them more favorably. The clamor rose to such a level last year that about 4,400 students opted out of the exams and the Legislature made addressing the Common Core controversy a priority.

The result was a set of laws dubbed the Common Core compromise. Among other changes, the compromise stipulated that no more than half of the questions on 2016 exams can come from the PARCC consortium. As a result, last school year was the first and possibly last time students in Louisiana will take PARCC-developed tests.

The law also called for a standards review committee to tweak the Common Core standards. That committee will present its work to the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, which will adopt new standards by March.

The scores released Thursday had been put on hold while the state Department of Education figured out how to account for the students who opted out of the tests. High school scores — unaffected by Common Core — were released in October.

Common Core aside, test scores generally are a big deal for all involved in public education. Parents use them to help decide which schools are best suited for their children. They also determine whether conventional schools will be subject to state takeover and whether charter schools will remain open.

This year’s letter grade curve — which means the percentages of A, B, C, D or F schools this year are the same as in 2013 — is an attempt to avoid unfairly penalizing school systems that have had to train students and staff to face harder exams, state Superintendent John White has said.

The state also is pushing schools toward higher expectations. In this year’s results, an A school is one where students, on average, scored at “basic” or better. But by 2025, an A school will be one where students on average score at “mastery” or above, the next level up.

School systems in and around New Orleans remained relatively steady this year. The typical high performers, including most schools governed by the Orleans Parish School Board, did well, as expected. The system’s 109.6, A- rating was the second-highest in the state and the highest in the New Orleans area.

The city overall — combining School Board-governed schools and those taken over by the state’s Recovery School District after Hurricane Katrina — earned an 83.4 and a C letter grade, the same as in 2014.

In all, 33 of 52 schools under the RSD earned scores high enough to make them eligible to come back under the Orleans Parish School Board, should they choose to make the jump. As charter schools, each is governed by an independent board that votes on whether to stay or go. To qualify to return to the parish board, they must have operated within the RSD for five years and score 54 or better, or 4 points above the failing bar, on the 150-point scale for two years.

Newly eligible charters this year were KIPP Renaissance High, Lawrence D. Crocker College Prep, ReNEW Schaumburg Elementary, McDonogh No. 42 Charter and Pierre A. Capdau Learning Academy.

Five other charters lost their eligibility this year. Those are Arise Academy, Gentilly Terrace Charter School, James Singleton Charter School, Medard Nelson Charter and William J. Fischer Elementary.

Five more — Andrew Wilson Charter School, Lagniappe Academy, McDonogh No. 28 City Park Academy, Miller-McCoy Academy for Mathematics and Business, and ReNEW Accelerated High School City Park Campus — all clocked Ds or Fs and have since closed.

Selective-admission schools, such as Benjamin Franklin High and others, were the top New Orleans-area schools. Alternative schools — which educate students who might otherwise drop out — generally fared the worst, though the state takes into account alternative charter schools’ populations when making decisions about whether to allow a school to continue operating.

Correction: An earlier version of this story said that all 52 Recovery School District charters were eligible to return to the Orleans Parish School Board.

Follow Jessica Williams on Twitter, @jwilliamsNOLA.

TOP 10 NEW ORLEANS AREA SCHOOLS
School2015 Letter Grade2015 SPS2014 Letter Grade2014 SPSPoint change
Benjamin Franklin High SchoolA138.9A140.1-1.2
Haynes Academy School for Advanced StudiesA136.7A137.9-1.2
Patrick F. Taylor Science & Technology AcademyA135.5A138-2.5
Thomas Jefferson High School for Advanced StudiesA132.5A131.11.4
Metairie Academy for Advanced StudiesA132.1A134.2-2.1
L. W. Ruppel Academy for Advanced StudiesA131.6A130.70.9
Lusher Charter SchoolA130.3A131.5-1.2
Gretna No. 2 Academy for Advanced StudiesA128.1A130-1.9
Airline Park Academy for Advanced StudiesA125.3A132.1-6.8
Lake Forest Elementary Charter SchoolA123.8A124.6-0.8
BOTTOM 10 NEW ORLEANS AREA SCHOOLS
School2015 Letter Grade2015 SPS2014 Letter Grade2014 SPSPoint change
Martyn Alternative SchoolF14.4F16.6-2.2
ReNEW Accelerated High School West Bank CampusF18.9F21.9-3
Crescent Leadership AcademyF20.2T14.45.8
The NET Charter High SchoolF25.7F22.23.5
ReNEW Accelerated High School City Park CampusF29.2F16.412.8
Westbank Community SchoolF34.2F22.112.1
Celerity Woodmere Charter SchoolF37.5D58.9-21.4
William J. Fischer Elementary SchoolF39.6D56.8-17.2
Andrew H. Wilson Charter SchoolF39.7F49.1-9.4
Paul Habans Charter SchoolF39.8F42-2.2
New Orleans area school systems
District2015 Letter Grade2015 SPS2014 Letter Grade2014 SPSPoint change
Orleans Parish (OPSB only)A109.6A109.20.4
St. Tammany ParishA104.1A104.9-0.8
St. Charles ParishA103.9A105.9-2
Plaquemines ParishA102.3A104.8-2.5
St. Bernard ParishB98.3B99.7-1.4
LouisianaB88.8B89.2-0.4
Jefferson ParishB87.7B87.20.5
St. John the Baptist ParishB85.2C83.12.1
Orleans Parish (OPSB and RSD)C83.4C83.40
Recovery School DistrictC70.8C71.2-0.4

Follow Jessica Williams on Twitter, @jwilliamsNOLA.