LAFAYETTE — The parish school system’s teachers and principals are being credited with maintaining the district’s B letter grade amid the state’s transition to tougher tests and a local initiative to move struggling students to their age-appropriate campuses.
“You have to give credit to the teachers and principals who have worked hard,” Superintendent Pat Cooper said in response to the state’s release on Tuesday of district and school accountability scores.
“Last year, especially, they worked without any additional money for the turnaround plan,” Cooper said. “They worked with all this hullabaloo going on at the School Board office and they worked with the rigor of the test getting so much harder.”
The school system held on to its B letter grade, although its overall accountability score fell slightly from 90.5 last year to 90 points on a 150-point scale used by the state. The average state performance score was 89.2, or a B letter grade.
Louisiana’s accountability system is in transition as it moves toward more rigorous testing aligned with other states. Starting in 2016, tougher accountability standards will be phased in so that by 2025, students will have to score “mastery” level on tests for a school to receive an A letter grade, rather than the current standard of “basic.”
The Louisiana Department of Education released performance results for the 2013-14 school year on Tuesday. Statewide, Louisiana Superintendent of Education John White characterized the growth as steady.
“While the results are steady now, over the next two years, the ability to maintain that high score will be much more difficult,” White told reporters in a teleconference Tuesday. “And schools need to prepare now for that raising of the bar as it will be much more difficult for them to maintain their grade as mastery becomes the new expectation and not basic, which is the original expectation.”
Acadiana school districts marked improvement or maintained their letter grade status in the latest release of district performance scores that includes student performance on last school year’s more challenging state tests.
In the Acadiana region, Evangeline Parish charted the most significant growth in academic achievement, rising 12 points from last year’s C label to a B rating this year.
St. Landry Parish charted the second most significant growth, improving by nine points to shake its D status for a C accountability label. Other school districts in the Acadiana area — Acadia, Iberia, St. Martin, St. Mary and Vermilion — all maintained their B letter grades.
In Lafayette Parish, three schools charted double-digit growth: Acadian Middle moved from 58.5 in 2013 with a D letter grade to 72.5 in 2014, which is a C letter grade; David Thibodaux STEM Magnet Academy moved from a C with 78.6 points in 2013 to 89.7 in 2014, which is a B; Katherine Drexel Elementary moved from a C and 80.1 points in 2013 to a B and 90.8 points in 2014.
Eight Lafayette Parish schools received A letter grades: Alleman Middle, Broadmoor, L. Leo Judice, Green T. Lindon, Milton Elementary, Woodvale, Ernest Gallet and the Early College Academy.
Broussard Middle and Charles Burke Elementary also boosted their scores to move out of a C letter grade to earn B letter grades based on 2013-14 school year performance. Two other schools — Carencro Middle and Live Oak Elementary — moved from a D letter grade to a C.
J.W. Faulk Elementary did not improve from its F rating, but it’s no longer the district’s only F-rated school.
Northside High School fell 2.8 points from last year’s score of 51.6 to 48.8, also receiving an F letter grade from the state. In addition, N.P. Moss Preparatory, the district’s alternative school for students removed from their campuses for discipline issues, received a letter grade of F.
The scores for Faulk dropped 1.2 points from 34.4 in 2012-13 to 33.2 for 2013-14. Cooper blamed the decline in the score on the school not receiving the support it needed.
“We were not able last year to reduce class sizes or give them additional personnel,” Cooper said. “That was something we wanted to do in the turnaround plan and we couldn’t do.”
This year, class sizes are limited to 17 students to one teacher and in most cases at 15 students, and an additional assistant principal was assigned to the school.
Cooper said he believes the additional support will produce results, but it likely won’t be enough growth to achieve a D status.
The school’s new principal Jamilah Hicks has said that students will spend more time this school year on literacy with a two-hour block of English language arts and an additional 30 minutes of tutoring for struggling readers and math students.
“We’ve got this year, then next year to get them out of F status before the state would have opportunity to take over,” Cooper said.
This year marks the first for N.P. Moss Prep to receive a performance score. In prior years, the scores of its students were attached to a student’s base school, Cooper said.
The School Board approved a reconstitution of Acadian Middle last year and made a similar move at Northside High in the 2012-13 school year. Cooper characterized the drop at Northside and some middle and high schools as a reflection of over-aged students moving onto their campuses.
In the 2013-14 school year, students who were lagging behind their peers academically by two or three years were moved to their age-appropriate campuses.
In the case of Northside High, Cooper said, about 50 overage students were moved to the campus and struggled with math and literacy skills.
“I don’t think it’s a reflection of what’s going on over there,” Cooper said. “It’s a reflection that we had 50 kids who brought their scores down considerably,” Cooper said.
As the state transitions to higher accountability standards, the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education enacted “safety nets” to maintain the distribution of letter grades, White told reporters on Tuesday.
Due to that safety net policy, some grades were tweaked to ensure that the distribution of letter grades remained consistent as required by BESE’s transition policy, White explained.
“If only 59 percent were As, Bs and Cs, then the team had to reach down in the Ds and pull up a D to a C to ensure that the same percentage at a minimum were A, Bs and Cs,” White said.
The requirement impacted less than 2 percent of the state’s 1,335 schools. However, White said he’s enlisted the Legislative Auditor’s Office to review the department’s application of the policy.
The transition policy bumped up the letter grades of two Lafayette Parish schools: Judice Middle and Carencro Middle, both which received scores of 69.9 and a C letter grade.
Carencro Middle charted a 4.3-point growth compared to last year while Judice Middle dropped 7.2 points.
Two other Acadiana-area schools were also impacted by the policy: Breaux Bridge Elementary (69.2) received a C; and New Iberia Senior High 84.3 and a B.
Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.