Published 12:00 am Monday, March 7, 2005

Managing Editor

BATON ROUGE – District Performance Scores released Thursday by the Louisiana Department of Education reported that River Parish school districts, including St. John the Baptist, St. Charles and St. James parishes, are holding their own.

The ranksd came with combining scores from LEAP/Gee, Iowa Tests, attendance rate and dropout rate. LEAP/GEE counts for 60 percent of the score, with 30 percent for the Iowa Test, and 5 percent each for attendance and dropout rate.

Scores of 140 or better are ranked at five stars. Scores of 120-139.9 are ranked at four stars. No Louisiana school districts are yet ranked at four or five stars.

Three-star school districts have 100-119.9 scores, of which there are eight in Louisiana, including St. Charles Parish. Two-star school districts have 80-99.9 scores. One-star school districts have 60-79.9 scores.

School districts with scores of 45-59.9 are ranked as districts with a Warning. School districts with scores below 45 are ranked at Unacceptable.

In St. John Parish, ranked at 68.9 or one star, was 58th-best in 66 school districts. That rank included 39.4 for LEAP/GEE, with 47.2 for the state; 21.8 for Iowa Test, with 25.5 for the state; 3.9 for attendance, with 4.2 for the state; and 3.8 for dropout rate, with 5.7 for the state.

Assistant Superintendent Wilbert Ocmond pointed out, though, that this year’s score is higher than last year’s 66.8 score which, again, is higher than the previous year’s 62 score.

“We didn’t decline. We’re gradually making progress,” Ocmond said. “It’s obviously not where we’d like to be but we’re not losing ground.”

Ocmond also pointed out that overall scores for black students improved from 57.6 to 62.8, while white scores dropped from 93.1 to 89.6.

In addition, scores for special education students improved from 30.3 to 44, a huge jump in that category, Ocmond added.

In St. Charles Parish, ranked as the fifth-best in the state, and only one of eight districts ranked as three stars, the district ranked at 102.9, compared to the overall 82.6 score for the state.

The LEAP/GEE score was 58.6, above the statewide score of 47.2; Iowa Test score was 31.8, above the state score of 25.5; attendance score was 5.2, compared to 4.2 for the state; and dropout score was 7.3, compared to 5.7 for the state.

In St. James Parish, ranked as the 44th-best in the state, came in on the high end of a one-star ranking, with a 79.1 score. That included 44.0 for LEAP/GEE, with 47.2 for the state; 23.9 for Iowa Test, with 25.5 for the state; 4.5 for attendance, with 4.2 for the state; and 6.7 for dropout rate, with 5.7 for the state.

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Overall, 86 percent of the state’s public school districts showed improvement, as 57 districts improved. Seven districts had decreased scores. Two districts – St. Charles and West Carroll – remained the same. Two new districts – Baker and Zachary – did not receive performance scores.

Overall, the DPS for the 66 judged districts was 82.6 in 2004, up from 80.6 in 2003, a two-point gain. The DPS is a “roll up” of individual student scores on the LEAP 21/GEE 21 and Iowa tests, as well as attendance and dropout rates.

“These results are why I remain committed to our nationally acclaimed education reforms. Our educational gains have created tremendous momentum and optimism throughout Louisiana. We must use this energy and excitement to press forward and stay the course,” Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco said. “Louisiana’s high-quality teachers are the core of our successes in education. They are vital to the continued improvement that Louisiana needs.”

“An overwhelming majority of our districts improved this year and, in fact, every single school district has improved since 2002. That’s exciting,” State Superintendent of Education Cecil J. Picard said. “However, in order for schools and districts to continue making gains in accountability, they must focus on programs and initiatives that support and enhance improved student achievement for all students.”

East Carroll Parish led the state in growth, improving an impressive 9.5 points, while Winn Parish, Catahoula Parish, Bienville Parish, and Claiborne Parish rounded out the Top 5 in growth.

Of districts with decreased scores, Caldwell Parish and Morehouse Parish had the largest decline followed by the City of Bogalusa, Grant Parish and Franklin Parish. Overall, for K-12, districts with the top five DPS are St. Tammany Parish, Livingston Parish, Vernon Parish, West Feliciana Parish, and St. Charles Parish.

The bottom five performing districts are, from lowest to highest, Orleans Parish, Madison Parish, St. Helena Parish, Red River Parish, and Tensas Parish.

White students’ Subgroup Performance Scores (GPS) grew from 101.4 in 2003 to 102.8 in 2004, a 1.4-point gain, while black students’ GPS grew from 58.5 in 2003 to 60.7 in 2004, a 2.2-point gain.

The performance gap between white and black students decreased from 42.9 in 2003 to 42.1 in 2004, while the gap between regular and special education students decreased from 41.0 in 2003 to 40.2 in 2004.

In previous years, districts were assigned a District Responsibility Index (DRI) that considered district efforts in the areas of summer school retest improvement, placement of certified teachers, effectiveness in improving high stakes test performance from one year to the next, and effectiveness of assisting schools to meet their Growth Targets.

Districts were not assigned a DRI score this year because of the change in the promotional requirements at fourth grade that make it impossible to make comparisons between 2003 and 2004 that are required for Indicator 1, Summer School, and for Indicator 3, change in LEAP 21 First-Time Passing Rate.