The St. Tammany Parish Public School System received a B on the Louisiana School District overall performance scores released Thursday.
St. Tammany schools scored 85.2 in a numerical metric that weighed ACT scores, standardized test scores, graduation rates, a school's improvement from the previous year's score and various other factors.
St. Tammany's score was the 13th highest of the 75 school districts in Louisiana, and it takes into account the performance of students in third through 12th grades.
The Zachary School District posted the highest numerical score in the state (93.6.) Each of the 12 districts that scored higher than St. Tammany has significantly fewer students.
St. Tammany Parish Schools Assistant Superintendent Regina Sanford, who oversees curriculum for the system, said that to her knowledge, this marked the first time that St. Tammany had failed to score an A on the state’s performance scores.
Sanford said the Louisiana Department of Education's decision to require higher benchmark goals all at once this year, rather than gradually, may have hampered district scores. She also said requiring a 21 on the ACT to achieve mastery level, as opposed to 18 in previous years, was a significant jump.
"When you roll out changes, you need to do a more gradual rollout, in my opinion," she said. "When you have veteran teachers who having been doing things a (certain way for a significant period of time,) it takes some effort to make shifts."
Sanford was pleased, however, because if judged by last year’s criteria, St. Tammany actually would have improved its overall numerical score (a 104.1 in 2017 to a 105.7 this year.) That mark would have resulted in an A grade this year if judged by last year's standards.
“That recognizes the hard work of our teachers,” Sanford said. “They are making progress. It’s almost like the goal post has been moved this year. So while there are some kinds of concern about the formula change, it’s just a number.”
Sanford also said she’s “extremely pleased” that each of St. Tammany’s 55 public schools received an A, B or C grade. Eleven schools scored an A, 29 rated a B and 15 scored a C.
According to the state's performance scores, five of the parish's eight public high schools received an A grade, including Lakeshore, Fontainebleau and Mandeville high schools in west St. Tammany, and Northshore and Pearl River high schools on the eastern side of the parish.
Sanford said four of those schools (all except Pearl River) rank among the Top 10 in the state in average ACT scores — the most common national standard used to measure student aptitude at the high-school level.
Other St. Tammany schools scoring A grades include Mandeville Junior High, and Marigny, Magnolia Trace, Pontchartrain, Woodlake and Mandeville elementary schools. All six of those schools are in the Mandeville area.
School Board President Robin Mullett lamented that state performance standards are “a moving target,” but added she was pleased with St. Tammany’s scores given the new criteria used to determine them.
“Everyone wants to be an A, of course, and we do as well,” Mullett said. “But we’re more than a letter grade.”
St. Tammany's early education schools earned an overall rating of proficient from the state. The parish earned an excellent rating in the areas of emotional support, classroom organization and access for at-risk 4-year olds. St. Tammany was considered proficient in emotional and behavioral support; and approaching proficient in the areas of instructional support and engaged support for learning.
St. Tammany's early education schools were given a numeric grade of 5.49, which was the seventh-highest of the 69 such systems in the state.