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Bottom 20 percent of schools announced in St. Charles Parish

By Michael Kiral / L’Observateur / February 21, 1998

LULING – Presentations on the St. Charles Parish School District’sresponse to the Louisiana accountability legislation and on the American College Test highlighted the meeting of the St. Charles Parish SchoolBoard Wednesday night.

Act 478, enacted in 1997, requires school districts to select and provide assistance to the 20 percent lowest achieving schools. The administrationused the 1997 CAT and LEAP/GEE attainment rates and selected the district’s four middle schools – Harry Hurst, Eual J. Landry, J.B. Martin andAlbert Cammon – and two high schools – Destrehan and Hahnville.

But Carolyn Woods, St. Charles associate superintendent, emphasizedthese schools are still scoring high above the state average on these tests and the district has been reporting results for the last two decades.

Woods pointed out that the schools have scored high in both LEAP attainment rates and in the GEE and that the schools already have assistance programs in place, such as the TIME and ADAPT programs.

J.B. Martin Middle School Principal Diane Rochelle showed that there hasbeen a reduction in the pupil-teacher ratio in the middle schools over the past year. The number of classes with 20 or fewer students has doubledover the past year, while the number with 27 or more has dropped from 35 percent to 9 percent in one year. She also said there has been an increasein the instructional staff with more instructors hired for the HOSTS program and science and technical labs.

Albert Cammon Middle School Principal Sylvia Zeno presented the additional gains in administrative personnel that give principals more time to monitor the improvement plan. William Picard, principal at Eual J.Landry Middle, pointed out that there has been improvements in technical assistance and services, such as scheduling, program evaluations, support for new programs and individual school initiatives and LEAP remediation.

Harry Hurst Middle Principal Henry Shepard pointed out the gains in other programs, including the career technology and science labs.

“We are doing well at the middle school level,” Dr. James Taylor, directorof middle schools, said. “We have had a number of visitors from schooldistricts around the state and as far away as Indiana to see how we do it.”Destrehan High School Principal Chipper Simon gave a presentation on his school’s improvement plan. He said Destrehan has a school governancestructure that studies data and formulates the improvement plan.

“Whenever we make a decision that affects students we base it on what best serves the students’ learning,” Simon said.

Hahnville High School Principal Bobby Stephenson said his school has had a improvement plan for the past seven years. Hahnville has a SchoolImprovement Council, whose role is to meet monthly and review the action plan and agenda requests and plan upcoming activities. Stephenson saidHahnville’s values are that it will set high expectations of quality for itself and its students.

Both high schools have programs in place for GEE and ACT improvement, including tutoring in all subject areas, ACT preparatory classes and slogan and poster contests. Those programs are gaining in importance as 84percent of the district’s class of 1997 took the ACT test. Louisiana had 73percent of its class of 1997 take the ACT, ranking the state second in the country to Tennessee in percentage of students taking the test.

Nationwide, 36 percent of the students of the class of 1997 took the test.

Director of High Schools Ray Poplus pointed out that when a broader group of students take a test it disperses the scores more.

“The higher the percentage of students taking the test, the lower the average score,” Poplus said.

The average ACT score in St. Charles Parish has risen from 19.1 in 1993 to19.8 last year. The parish has scored above the state average every yearsince 1994, but is below that national average of 21.

Poplus said one factor affecting test scores is whether a student has taken the core courses recommended by the ACT. The ACT recommendsthat college-bound students take four courses of English and three each of math, social studies and natural sciences. Poplus pointed out thatstudents taking the core courses scored four points in each area tested than those who did not take the core courses.

Poplus presented the initiatives the parish has in place to help raise the test scores. Those programs include elective ACT prep courses as well asalgebra for college-bound seniors classes and ACT software and books and testing material are available at the schools.

Poplus recommended that students take the core courses set lofty but reasonable goals for themselves, practice for the test and get a good rest and breakfast before the test and for parents to help their children in these areas.

In his report to the board, Superintendent Dr. Rodney Lafon remindedstudents and parents that there is no school in the parish next week for the students. Classes resume Monday, March 2.

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