St. John schools still near bottom

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 18, 2005


Staff Reporter

BATON ROUGE — The St. John the Baptist Parish School System’s district performance scores are improving, but are still not reaching the heights of their River Parishes counterparts, according to reports released this spring by the state department of education.

Although St. John Parish improved by two points and in district scores ranked 58 out of the state’s 66 school districts, the district is still positioned behind St. James Parish at 44th place and St. Charles Parish in fifth place.

The district performance scores, also called GPS scores, are based on one year of data from the schools and individual student scores on the LEAP 21/ GEE 21 and IOWA tests, as well as attendance and dropout rates. The schools are graded on a star system, with below 45 being academically unacceptable and 140 or above receiving five stars.

The overall state score was 82.6, or two stars. The St. John Parish score was 69, with one star. St. James also has one star, with 79 points. St. Charles Parish scored 103 and attained three stars.

Rochelle Cancienne, director of public information for St. Charles Parish public schools, said, though she will not comment on other districts, she attributes St. Charles’ success to a number of factors.

“Every district deals with their issues specifically and individually,” Cancienne said, “but one (element) is the hard work and the countless hours that our teachers put into their work.

“They make sure that the children are not only ready and working in time for testing, but everyday.”

In the Tri-Parish area, St. Charles does have the highest number of certified teachers, at 98.4 percent, according to the report. St. John does not fall far behind with 95.2 percent, and St. James is at 93.6 percent.

Cancienne also credits a strong central office, a supportive community and parental involvement.

“Our business is teaching and learning; everyone plays a role- the teacher, custodian, bus driver,” she said.

Cancienne also said that the school system is about “continuous improvement.”

“We are doing well, but we could be doing better,” she said.

St. Charles scores stayed the same from the previous year, whereas both St. John and St. James parishes both improved, with St. James by three points.

Both schools are in the top 25 for most improved over the past two years.

According to Ann LaBorde, spokeswoman for St. John the Baptist Parish public schools, though St. Charles is in a different state education region than St. Charles Parish, they often work on curriculum matters with St. James Parish as well as the other parishes within their region; Assumption, Ascension, Lafourche and Terrebonne.

Recent LEAP scores for the 2005 school year show that St. John are expected to improve again when the district performance scores are released for the present school year.

St. John Parish showed a marked improvement in most of the grades scores for the LEAP 21/ GEE 21 scores, even showing advancement in places in which the state average decreased.

According to LaBorde, the district initiative was to score basic or higher, and attributes the success to the schools effort to ingrain that idea into the students heads.

“The students wore buttons and even took their tests with pencils that read, ‘St. John Parish Scores Basic or Above,'” LaBorde said.

The lowest performing district in the state, in GPS scores, was Orleans Parish, which received no stars and an academic warning.

The highest performing district was St. Tammany Parish, with a score of 109, and three stars.

Officials with St. James Parish Schools could not be reached for comment.