School district ranking drops

Though ACT scores, graduation rates improve, fall from sixth to eighth place attributed to addition of new school districts

Michelle Stuckey
November 24, 2009 at 9:01 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

Statewide school district rankings show that St. Charles Parish Public Schools consistently rank among the best in the state, though the district did fall two spots from sixth to eighth overall. However, the district was still among the leaders in ACT scores and graduation rates for the 2008-09 school year, finishing with the second highest graduation rate in the state and the third highest cumulative ACT score.

Rachel Allemand, St. Charles Parish Schools’ assistant superintendent, said she is not sure why the district’s overall ranking is lower than both the ACT and graduation rate would seem to indicate.

“I can only speculate that some other districts are placing larger numbers of students in alternative programs that don’t lead to a high school diploma,” Allemand said. “If these students do not receive a diploma, they would not be counted in the graduation rate. ACT scores do not count in the state’s accountability program.”

The parish’s graduation rate may actually be even higher than reported if it were not strictly based on those students who graduated in four years.

“I have a problem with that definition because a lot of our kids go to year five and graduate,” said Superintendent Rodney Lafon.

Lafon added that in all fairness, the state was trying to come up with a way of uniformly measuring progress and should be commended for it.

Allemand agreed with Lafon, adding that other ways have been tried and have failed.

“While we don’t like that districts are not given credit for students who graduate in five years, the formula being used in Louisiana is consistent with what is being done in other states,” she said. “In the past, each state created its own formula for measuring graduation rates. This resulted in a lot of variance from state to state in published data.”

The school board does look at the rankings, but strives not to base their future goals on them.

“While the Louisiana Department of Education publishes rankings of districts by school performance scores, these rankings do not account for the differences in student populations from district to district. Each district has unique characteristics,” Allemand said. “Since districts do not have comparable populations, comparisons should not be made from one district to another. Measuring the growth of an individual district from year to year would be a more appropriate measure of progress.”

Compared to the previous school years, St. Charles Parish schools have dropped in ranking, but Allemand believes this to be partly the result of new school districts which have been created, including the Zachary and Central districts.

“St. Charles Parish has continued to increase its district performance score,” Allemand said. “I believe the change in rankings is mainly due to the addition of districts such as Zachary and Central and shifts in student demographics in other districts.”

View other articles written Michelle Stuckey

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