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Boquet: School district evaluations may confuse parents

When School and District Performance Scores are released by the Louisiana Department of Education this year, parents, community members and educators will once again have to adjust to changes in the system that issues letter grades to school districts and their schools.

Those evaluations are anticipated to be released early next month and are expected to lead to a decline in performance scores across the state.

Out of the 227 current A schools in the state, only 168 are expected to maintain that letter grade under the new system. F schools are expected to increase 57 percent, according to state data.

Even those districts and schools maintaining the exact same score as last year will see their score fall this year due to the changes.

School and district performance scores measure things such as student performance on tests, graduation rates and academic growth in an attempt to give parents a concrete measure of their child’s school.

This year’s changes come in how those scores are calculated.

For example, under the state’s rating system, student scores on the LEAP test are categorized as either advanced, mastery, basic, approaching basic or unsatisfactory. In the past, districts were awarded 125 points out of 150 for students scoring mastery and 100 for basic.

This year, students will be given 100 points for mastery and 80 for basic.

Another such change comes in how points for ACT scores are awarded. A composite score of 21 now earns 100 points toward the district rating when previously 100 points were awarded for a score of 18. An 18 now earns 70 points.

So while the St. John the Baptist Parish Public School District is expected to improve this year, the new score may not reflect that.

The Legislature was so concerned about these changes confusing the public and causing concerns among parents that their schools were moving backwards that earlier this year it required the state to issue two scores, one under the old formula and one under the new formula.

This will be in addition to two other scores being added this year by state education officials, one based on student performance on standardized tests and one based on student progress. This means a total of four scores for school districts this year.

No matter what changes happen at the state level, the St. John the Baptist Parish Public School District is focused on improving student performance each and every year.

One key initiative put in place this year to accomplish that is the adoption of Tier 1 Curricula across the district.

Tier 1 are instructional materials that have been rated as superior quality by the Louisiana Department of Education and is the highest rating given.

The district has also renewed its commitment to making sure all students – from the highest achievers to the lowest – show improvement by the end of the school year by setting individual growth targets for each and every student.

The district is also continuing in partnership with the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching its implementation of TAP: The System for Teacher and Student Advancement, which provides incentives for teachers as they grow professionally to ultimately impact the most important people in the district – the students.

Jennifer Boquet is the communications specialist for St. John the Baptist Parish Public Schools. Email her at jboquet@stjohn.k12.la.us.