But state ranking improves as officials blame new grading system
Although St. Charles Parish Public Schools got a “B” in this year’s Louisiana Department of Education’s (LDOE) performance rating, school officials say the change is in the method of grading – not the system.
“We’re no different this year than we were last year,” said School Board member Ellis Alexander. “The method for grading is different this year. They raised the bar.”
St. Charles Parish now ranks 15th in the state with an overall score of 84.9, which is a “B.” Last year the district had a score of 100 for an “A.” Despite the “A” ranking, St. Charles Parish ranked 17th in the state in 2017 based on their overall score. In 2016, the school district ranked third in the state based on overall score.
Until this year, the system ranked among the state’s 21 “A” systems. It’s a grade it maintained since 2013 when LDOE started grading systems. But this year, only five districts kept their “A” grade, with Zachary Community School District holding its No. 1 ranking.
Only one St. Charles Parish school – Norco Elementary – held its “A” grade this year. Three schools – Destrehan High, Hahnville High and J.B. Martin Middle – dropped from an “A” to a “B.”
Two schools – R. K. Smith Middle and Albert Cammon Middle – rose from a “C” to a “B” this year.
The remainder of the system’s schools held their grades from last year. Those with a “B” include Allemands Elementary, Lakewood Elementary, Mimosa Park Elementary, St. Rose Elementary, R. J. Vial Elementary, Harry M. Hurst Middle, New Sarpy Elementary and Ethel Schoeffner Elementary. Luling Elementary was graded as a “C” last year and this year.
LDOE says Louisiana is redefining what it means to be an “A” school.
“We are analyzing the information to determine ways to improve and are currently on the right track with several action steps that are already in place.” – Al Suffrin
“By 2025, an ‘A’ school in Louisiana is one where the average student has fully mastered content, is ready for the next level of study, and has access to the same opportunities as his or her peers across the country,” according to LDOE. “As the state works toward that goal, it is gradually raising the bar for what it takes to earn the highest grade.”
The changes are required under the U.S. Department of Education’s “Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) of 2015 (previous version called the No Child Left Behind Act) aimed at equaling opportunity for all students.
Under ESSA, persistently struggling schools are identified; school improvement dollars awarded to systems with “strong evidence-based plans” to improve struggling schools and intervention in schools that don’t improve over time.
Some 272 Louisiana schools have been identified as struggling persistently and required to submit an improvement plan, according to the LDOE. Beginning this year, schools struggling with specific groups of students or chronic discipline issues also are required to submit this plan.
LDOE interventions will include additional resources and support for early childhood programs, as well as school redesign grants for struggling schools, additional funding for academic planning such as “Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy” subgrants and direct student services to increase access to college and career coursework and opportunities.
The LDOE releases performance scores yearly, ranking schools and school districts by grade and score.
According to Superintendent Felecia Gomez-Walker, for several years, the LDOE has modified these assessments, changed the accountability formula and adjusted the factors to design a rating system for schools and school systems. State Superintendent John White has stated it would cause “A” grades to drop by 38 percent.
Calling the LDOE report “confusing” and not articulating “a school’s or school system’s overall effectiveness,” Gomez-Walker said the system released its own 32-page report outlining its successes.
“The public is encouraged to review our 2018 Quality Profile that provides information on our commitment to high standards, equitable opportunities, support for struggling students, transparency and an accountability system with credibility,” she said. “Our Triple A School System achieves success in Academics, Athletics and the Arts.”
School Board President Al Suffrin said, under the old formula, the system would have retained its “A” with a score that would have risen from 100 to 107.3.
Suffrin, as did Alexander, pointed to the higher grading standards for the change.
“We are analyzing the information to determine ways to improve and are currently on the right track with several action steps that are already in place,” Suffrin said.
Alexander singled out an academic area that needs improving.
“Like anywhere, there’s always room for improvement and I have noticed an area where I feel we can improve and that’s our social studies score and, in particular, U.S. history,” he said.
Each school considers and analyzes the data and information provided by the state in addition to using additional measures to determine success and opportunities for improvement. Gomez-Walker said St. Charles Parish Public Schools remains a top performing school system based on success indicators valued by families and the community.
Schools are graded on a 0 to 150 point scale and receive letter grades of “A” through “F.” Those grades factor in points earned by students for each subject tested during standardized tests.
The tests have five possible score levels: advanced, mastery, basic, approaching basic and unsatisfactory.
Until this year, each student got 125 points out of 150 for scoring “mastery” on yearly LEAP tests, and 100 points for scoring “basic.” Now, under the new scores, students get 100 points for mastery and 80 for basic.