School performance scores — a measure of public school quality that combines test results and dropout rates — remained relatively steady across the New Orleans area this year, according to figures released Tuesday by the state Department of Education.
In Orleans, Jefferson and St. Tammany parishes, so-called district performance scores, encompassing results from all public schools, remained flat or inched higher. St. Charles and St. John the Baptist parishes both saw modest increases.
Plaquemines and St. Bernard parishes experienced the biggest swings, with Plaquemines gaining enough to become an A-rated district and St. Bernard falling from an A to a B.
Louisiana’s statewide performance score went from 88.5 to 89.2, remaining a B.
Results this year could not be precisely compared with those of the previous year because Louisiana is moving toward a controversial set of new academic standards known as the Common Core.
In anticipation of tougher exams, the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted recently to hold the distribution of letter grades assigned to schools constant from one year to the next. Individual schools and districts still saw their letter grades rise or fall, but the overall percentage of schools assigned a particular grade did not change.
“There’s sort of a safety net in this process,” said state Superintendent John White.
Still, White said the adjustment only bumped up 21 individual letter grades, affecting about 1.6 percent of the state’s 1,335 schools.
The bigger changes will come in future years. Starting in 2016, it will get harder and harder for a school to maintain any particular letter grade. That’s because since the late 1990s, Louisiana has set the bar for a passing grade on standardized exams at “basic,” or level 3 on a five-point scale. Now the state plans to gradually lift the bar to “mastery,” or level 4.