District ranks 12th in school performance

Michelle Stuckey
October 14, 2011 at 9:09 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

District and school performance scores were released last week and St. Charles ranked No. 12 out of 70 districts in the state.

The district earned a B score and was counted among the state’s District Honor Roll for districts earning an A or B - Zachary Community School District was the only one to score an A.

New Sarpy Elementary boasts the highest state ranking in our parish, coming in at No. 114 out of over 1,300 schools. Luling Elementary had the lowest state ranking in our parish at No. 340.

“No two schools or districts are exactly alike in the demographics of their student populations,” said Rachel Allemand, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment. “It is more important to compare growth from year to year in each school rather than comparing schools. Luling Elementary, for example, has the highest percent of students receiving free/reduced…and the second highest percent of students with disabilities.

“Despite these statistics, (LES) increased its performance score by 7.4 points. This greatly exceeded the average state growth of 2.2 points and was the second highest growth in school performance scores in St. Charles.”

The district’s score as a whole went up by 1.2 points from last year, for a score of 106.7. That is up from a district-wide score of 99.4 in 2007.

While the district is ranked No. 12 for baseline scores, they are ranked No. 33 based on point change from 2010 to 2011 and No. 29 based on percentage of schools achieving their growth targets for 2011.

About 60 percent of parish schools earned a B grade - the rest earned Cs. Only three schools in the parish reached their growth target this year: Mimosa Park Elementary, R.J. Vial Elementary and A.A. Songy Kindergarten Center.

“St. Charles continues to strive toward achieving ‘A’ status for all of its schools,” Allemand said. “Seven (parish) schools are less than 10 points away from ‘A’ grades.”

Race, income factors into performance
Race and income seem to be factors when scores are broken down.

The group of students who pay for lunch received a score of 115.8 while those receiving free or reduced lunch scored 89.4. White students scored an average 112.6 while black students scored 84.4.

“Many studies have been conducted and books written about the disparity in achievement of various subgroups of students in the United States,” Allemand said. “While there is no consensus from these studies, most agree that the causes are complex and include factors such as persistent poverty and cultural differences.

“For example, students living in persistent poverty are more likely to have poor health care, frequent changes in residents requiring enrollment in new schools, and lack of resources such as books in the home.”

While students in regular education scored 106.2, special education students parishwide earned a 62.7.

“The disparity between regular and special education students is more easily understood as students with disabilities have physical, mental and/or emotional obstacles that often interfere with learning,” Allemand said. “Although accommodations and effective instruction are provided for students, it is often difficult to completely overcome the obstacles caused by the disabilities.”

School officials think new scoring system is confusing
This is the first year that the state has given schools and districts letter grades as opposed to the previously-used star system. This year’s grading scale is 120-200 for an A, 105-199.9 for a B, 90-104.9 for a C, 65-89.9 for a D and 0-64.9 for an F. The scale will change again next year.

Whether a school receives a plus or minus grade is determined by comparing the previous year’s performance scores to the 2011 growth scores. A plus sign indicates a school has improved enough to meet their 2011 assigned growth target; a minus sign means a school’s growth performance score has declined by at least one-tenth of a point since the previous year. If a school does not receive a plus or minus symbol, it signifies that the school either had no growth or improved its baseline score without meeting its 2011 growth performance goal.

However, these plus and minus signs that are based on growth scores are coupled with letter grades based on a totally different set of scores: baseline performance, which is determined by the average of two years.

Board members think that this policy is potentially confusing to the public because some schools with higher scores may have a minus while lower-scored schools have a plus. For example, New Sarpy Elementary scored 114 but has a letter grade of B- while Mimosa Park scored 138 and has a B+. Allemand said that the scores can also be confusing because schools are rated on a 200-point scale while individual students are graded on a 100-point scale.

In grades K-6th, performance scores are based off of student test scores by 90 percent and 10 percent on attendance. At the 7th and 8th grade level, the scores are based on attendance for 5 percent, dropouts for 5 percent and test scores for 90 percent. At the high school level, the scores are based on test scores for 70 percent and the graduation index for 30 percent.

In Louisiana, 44 percent of schools earned Ds and Fs according to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, or BESE. In 2007, nearly 55 percent of the state’s schools would have earned Ds and Fs.

View other articles written Michelle Stuckey

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