Schools make big DPS jump

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 7, 2008


Staff Reporter

RESERVE – The St. John public school system showed marked improvement in the 2006-2007 school year, according to state rankings released earlier this week by the Louisiana Department of Education (LDE).

St. John was the eighth most improved school district in the state with a District Performance Score (DPS) growth of 2.7 percent, however, the increased growth only brought the parish up to a DPS of 72.5, ranking the system 50th out of 61 parishes, and far below the state average of 85.3.

“We are struggling,” said School Board President Gerald Keller. “Basically, what has been happening, we are making incremental steps forward and then we are flat lining.”

A DPS of 72.5 labels St. John as a one star school system. This puts the school system 7.5 points away from being a two star system and 12.5 points above the lowest label of academically unacceptable.

“We have gotten better every year. I am just glad that we made the biggest step we’ve ever made,” said Superintendent Michael Coburn. “We are still 50 out of 61. I am not happy with that, but we are on the right track and doing the right things.”

When asked if he thought the school board had made the wrong decision in not renewing his contract

Coburn said, “The Board can hire and fire whoever they wish to…this (score) is why I have been busting my butt here the last five years. We have been working hard. They want to take bigger steps, but they are not going to say we haven’t increased every year.”

Coburn also said the improvement was the biggest in at least 10 years, and may be the biggest improvement ever for St. John.

“We have a long way to go,” said School Board Member Matthew Ory. “It shouldn’t have taken 10 years to make an impact like this, and Coburn has been here for most of those 10.”

The LDE records the DPS for each public school in the state.

According to a press release from the LDE, the DPS “is a measurement of how districts compare to other local public school systems. The DPS is essentially a ‘roll up’ of individual student scores on state examinations. Results from the LEAP, i LEAP and the Graduation Exit Exam are utilized along with student attendance and dropout rates.”

Neighboring parishes St. Charles and St. James public school systems both fared well in the DPS breakdown.

Although St. Charles Parish was number 28 on the improvement list, with a progression of 0.2, they ranked seventh best in the state overall with a DPS of 99.4.

St. James showed a marked improvement of 5.2, making them the third most improved school system in the state with a DPS of 87.7, two points above the state average for a ranking of 24th in the state.

Despite overall improvement in the DPS, St. John ranked 57th out of 61 in dropout rate, one of the DPS criteria.

“What you are looking at is a persistent problem,” said LDE spokesman David Grubb. “As a state, that is our biggest problem.”

Keller, who was formerly superintendent of St. John in the early 1990s, said the school system has lost between 1,400-1,600 students since he has been out of the position.

“We have to do something to maintain those students,” said Keller.