St. Charles Parish public school students once again increased their LEAP and iLEAP scores, with the district finishing as the fourth-best in the state.
The school system as a whole, including those taking the LEAP and iLEAP from 3rd through 8th grades, saw a slight increase moving up from an 82 percent passage rate last year to 84 percent in the 2013-14 school year. The statewide rate was 69 percent.
Despite being in the first year of new Common Core state standards, which are generally viewed as being more difficult than previous test standards, 4th graders taking the LEAP test improved their English scores by 1 percent this year, with 90 percent scoring at basic or above. Math scores also jumped parishwide by 5 percent for 4th graders, with 91 percent of the students scoring at basic or above in comparison to a statewide average of 76 percent.
In the 8th grade, 81 percent of students scored at basic or above on the English tests while the statewide average was 66 percent. Math scores for 8th graders were also much higher than the state average with 78 percent of students scoring at basic or above in comparison to 64 percent across Louisiana.
Schools administrators were very pleased with the district’s performance.
Superintendent Felecia Gomez-Walker said maintaining a continued increase in student performance has been a long-term goal for the school system.
“This is the result of many years of work leading up to this. We have been raising standards for students and we have been involved in professional development. We have been educating our parents in the community about this for a number of years, so we’re very excited with the results,” she said.
While transitioning to the Common Core, the school system had difficulty locating materials that adhered to the new standards required under the tests. Instead of waiting for materials to be developed, St. Charles Parish Public Schools took it upon itself to create their own materials.
Rachel Allemand, assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction and assessment, said teachers and administrators met over the summer break to develop Common Core coursework for the upcoming year.
“I think all of that paid off, it just took a huge effort on behalf of teachers and administrators,” she said. “With parents we created a live binder for math to help them to understand how Common Core was different from the old math. I think it was just the way all of that pulled together that paid off the way that it did.”
Allemand views Common Core as an upgrade in student learning.
“Common Core really emphasizes not just getting the correct answer, but understanding the mathematics behind how you get the correct answer, so a lot of Common Core is about developing that conceptual thinking,” she said.
Although Common Core has been a source of contention for some parents, Gomez-Walker said the St. Charles Parish community has been pretty quiet on the subject.
“Very seldom do you hear anybody, even a parent, identify something in Common Core that they object to. What they objected to was people thought there was federal involvement in the standards,” she said.
This year marks the final year iLEAP and LEAP tests will be in use as the state transitions to the Partnership For Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test, which will allow for the state to compare itself with other states for the first time.
Allemand said the new test will give St. Charles Parish a good measure for how prepared the district’s students are in comparison to other parts of the nation.
“There are 14 states that are part of PARCC at this point and that was one of the reasons Louisiana was interested in being part of that consortium,” she said. “It is great to do well in Louisiana, but we want to know that our children do well when you compare them to other children in other areas.”
Despite the continuing changes in testing, Gomez-Walker was quick to say St. Charles Parish Public Schools will remain on the same track towards improvement.
“We are not changing the course of what we are doing. We are investing our team, time and a lot of money and a lot of resources into that and it has paid off,” she said.
St. Rose Elementary experienced the biggest gain of any school with a 19 percent increase in 4th grade math scores. Luling Elementary and Ethel Schoeffner both saw an 8 percent increase in their math scores with 87 percent of 4th graders scoring at basic or above at Luling and 93 percent doing so at Ethel Schoeffner.
English scores for 4th graders only moved within a few percentage points for most schools, with St. Rose Elementary seeing the biggest increase of 6 percent.
Math scores for 8th graders saw the biggest jump at Albert Cammon, with 82 percent of students scoring at basic or above.