Baton Rouge-area school districts shine in state rankings, but EBR still lags _lowres

Baton Rouge area district performance scores

Zachary remains the top school district in Louisiana, but Central is right behind it, shooting from seventh to third place in the latest academic rankings of school districts, according to performance scores released Monday.

Five of the top 10 districts are in the Baton Rouge metropolitan area and all have A grades from the state. Livingston Parish, which was ranked 16th last year, burst into the top 10, and improved from its overall district grade from a B to an A.

Every school graded in Zachary had an A, and the district as a whole improved 5.3 points.

“We just attribute this to a lot of hard work and dedication and all of us working together as a team,” Zachary Superintendent Scott Devillier said.

While the largest school district in the metro area, the East Baton Rouge Parish school system, showed a slight improvement, it still kept an overall C ranking. The parish schools as a whole improved from 80.3 to 81.3, falling short of the 85 points needed for a B grade. Other districts improved at a faster rate, so the school system’s ranking also dropped from 41 to 43 out of Louisiana’s 72 districts.

Along with schools at the top and in the middle, the Baton Rouge metro area also owned two slots near the bottom of the rankings with St. Helena Parish and the state-run Recovery School District. Both districts, though, improved compared to last year, moving from F districts to overall D grades.

Throughout the 13-district metro area, only the West Feliciana Parish district declined, and did so by 0.7 points. But those schools still ranked 10th statewide. The rest of the districts improved, ranging from a meager improvement for Baker to an impressive leap for Livingston as a district.

The Louisiana Department of Education on Tuesday awarded grades and scores to 72 school districts and to 1,311 schools in all based on results from the 2013-14 school year. Schools were rated on a 150-point scale, with schools above 100 getting As and schools below 50 earning Fs.

Test scores account for 100 percent of elementary, 95 percent of middle and 50 percent of high school grades. High schools also are judged by their graduation rates and the quality of diplomas students earn.

Adam Knapp, president and chief executive officer of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, said his staff did a quick analysis by metro area that showed that Baton Rouge school districts improved 6 percent in the past year on average compared to 1 percent for the state as a whole.

Three schools jumped not just one but two letter grades: Lee High in Baton Rouge, Clinton Elementary in Clinton and Baker Heights Elementary in Baker. They grew by 41.1, 29.3 and 26.8 points, respectively, making the high school a B school and giving the elementaries C grades.

Pointe Coupee Central High in Morganza, which has been under the control of the Recovery School District until it was closed in May, also showed significant growth, growing 36.4 points and improving from an F to a D grade.

The biggest declines were at Pine Ridge School in Walker, which works with special-needs children, and Children’s Charter School and Merrydale Elementary, both in Baton Rouge. They declined 27.8, 24.1 and 21 points, respectively.

While East Baton Rouge Parish, the second-largest school system in Louisiana, improved overall, it lost ground when it comes to schools given the F letter grade. A year ago, its total of F schools shrank from 20 to eight. The latest results shows the number of F schools have doubled to 16.

Of those 16 F schools, nine are alternative schools, including four that opened in the past year.

Of the remaining seven F schools, three are district-sponsored charters and four are traditional neighborhood schools.

Two schools that had Fs last year —Claiborne Elementary and Mentorship Academy of Digital Arts —improved to Ds this go-around. Five schools, all elementaries, that had Ds last year declined to Fs: Children’s Charter, Howell Park, Melrose, Merrydale and Park Forest schools.

On the other end of the spectrum, the number of A schools in the parish school system increased from nine to 11. The new schools in the A list are Mayfair Lab School, a magnet school that opened a year ago, and LaSalle Elementary, which improved from a B to an A.

Fourteen schools in the school system improved by 10 points or more, while 10 schools declined by 10 points or more.

Baton Rouge Magnet High was the high-performing school in the metro area with a score of 130.1. The lowest-performing school is the alternative school, AMIKids Baton Rouge, which had a score of 5.9; the school has existed in various incarnations in the past, but did not receive a school report card for the 2012-13 school year.

For the Recovery School District, six of the 10 schools it oversaw in the Baton Rouge metro area improved their scores. Pointe Coupee Central saw the most growth, while Kenilworth Science & Technology suffered the biggest drop, 9.5 points, slipping from a C to a D grade.

Of those 10 schools, only Kenilworth remains open. The other nine schools have been closed. In some cases they’ve been replaced by new charter schools.

Baton Rouge Charter at Mid-City, which opened in August 2013 and is run by the for-profit Charter Schools USA, had a low initial score of 32.6, earning the school an F grade out of the gate. Charter Schools USA opened two more charter schools in the metro area two months ago.

Another chronic F school as well as a charter school, Career Academy, actually declined from 19.6 to 13.4 points, the third-lowest-performing school in the metro area. The school barely staved off closure this past spring and its charter is up for renewal this year with the parish School Board.