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Hollis Milton is superintendent of the West Feliciana Parish School District, which produced the highest school performance score in the pandemic-plagued 2020-21 school year.

Nearly three out of four public schools and districts showed drops in their school performance scores in the pandemic-plagued 2020-21 school year, according to results posted Friday.

Also, schools that relied largely on virtual learning showed bigger declines than others.

"The data is clear, having students in school, face-to-face with teachers is essential," state Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley said in a statement.

The annual scores are usually accompanied by letter grades, which generate lots of interest among parents and other taxpayers.

But Louisiana is one of 47 states that got a waiver that allowed it to shelve all of its policies on the production of school performance scores, including the grades typically attached to schools and districts.

State officials called the results "simulated' because they come with several caveats that make them hard to compare with previous years.

Some students because of COVID-19 and hurricanes skipped the key spring tests — called LEAP 2025 — that make up the bulk of the scores. Also, some high school graduation rules were shelved because of the pandemic, which would tend to inflate the results next to 2019, the most recent if not exactly comparable snapshot. "Simulated school performance scores are not official results and should not be considered comparable to other years," according to the website of the state Department of Education.

But leaders of districts that fared well wasted little time saying so.

The West Feliciana Parish School District finished with the top score in the state, displacing the Zachary School District after a 15-year run at the top.

"This is an incredible feat for us," said Hollis Milton, superintendent of the West Feliciana Parish School District.

The district posted an image of it as tops in the state followed by the Zachary, Central, Ascension and Livingston school systems.

All five would get an A-rating in a normal year.

"We know that having our students return to our campuses as quickly as they did and having our campuses offer creative alternatives that allowed our students to be in face-to-face learning environments with our teachers was the key to minimize learning deficits created by the COVID pandemic," Livingston Superintendent Joe Murphy said in a statement.

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Louisiana's overall average is 75.3 out of a possible 150, down from 77.1 in 2019.

The score is a low "B."

The 2020-21 school year was marked by stops and starts, and wide differences in whether schools relied on in-person or virtual learning.

The larger the number of students who relied mostly on distance learning the bigger drop in school scores, according to the state Department of Education.

When less than 25% of students used virtual learning for 50% or more of the year the drop was 2.8 points versus 5.9 points when half or more of the students did so.

Brumley said that, as school grapple with learning loss, "We must do everything we can to maximize the time our students get with their teachers."

In addition, schools with minority populations of 85% or more showed drops of 4.8 points compared to drops of 2.6 points for those with less than 85% minority students.

The results dovetail with the decline in scores for LEAP 2025, which test students in math, English, science and social studies.

Those scores, which were announced in August, plunged 5 percentage points and included declines in most of the state's 69 school districts.

In a normal year the grading range is A, 90.0-150.0; B, 75.0-89.9; C, 60.0-74.9; D, 50.0-59.9 and F, 0-49.9.

  • The East Baton Rouge Parish School District scored 67.1 compared to 69.1 in 2019.
  • The Orleans Parish School District scored 63.8 versus 67.8 in 2019.
  • The Jefferson Parish School District rose from 71.5 to 71.6 and the St. Tammany school system dropped from 85.1 to 82.9.
  • The Lafayette Parish School District rose from 78.9 to 81.6.

The full list is available here through www.louisianabelieves.com

Email Will Sentell at wsentell@theadvocate.com.