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St. John Public Schools earn “C” – District leaders talk improvement

RESERVE — The Louisiana Department of Education released performance data this week detailing how well public school students performed during the 2017-18 school year, handing out grade scores for individual schools and school districts.

The St. John the Baptist Parish Public School District scored a “C” with a 69.6 score. The 150-point grading scale jumps to a “B” at 75 and an “A” at 90.

Complicating matters for parents and community observers is scores released Thursday followed tougher grading standards instituted by the education department.

To help those interested, the education department also released scores based off the previous grading system, which would have put the St. John the Baptist Parish Public School District with an 84.8 score, still a “C” rating, but only .2 away from a B.

Under the old grading, St. John Public Schools scored an 83.8 this time last year for performance based on the 2016-17 academic year.

School Board member Gerald Keller said the Board must provide more oversight going forward but be careful not to interfere in attempts at progress.

“We have to make sure people are doing what they say is being done,” Keller said. “We’ve got to do a lot more monitoring of what’s going on in the School District by making site visits, talking to the teachers, talking to the administrators and seeing what they need.

“We have to make sure the (campus and administration) leaders implement and follow through on whatever they predicted. The leaders of our system have to be the principals.”

School Board member Patrick Sanders said it’s important for the District to maintain incremental growth each year, which is best accomplished with professional development ensuring administrators and teachers present instruction in a way students “can learn and want to learn.”

Local public school officials were quick to point out the raw District number demonstrated year-to-year gain in students’ performances.

“That shows we have quality instruction in our schools and shows we are actually doing our job of helping our students grow,” Superintendent Kevin George said.

“While we are pleased with these improvements, we are not content with where we are and we expect more gains moving forward. I’d like to thank all 972 of our employees and the School Board for contributing to this growth in our schools.”

Scores released by the state Thursday ranked East St. John High, LaPlace Elementary, East St. John Preparatory, West St. John Elementary, Lake Pontchartrain Elementary, Garyville/Mt. Airy Math & Science Magnet and Emily C. Watkins Elementary as “C” schools.

West St. John High School and John L. Ory Communications Magnet were ranked “B” schools.

Fifth Ward Elementary was rated an “F” school.

Schools that demonstrated year-to-year growth were East St. John High, LaPlace Elementary, West St. John Elementary, Garyville/Mt. Airy Math & Science and Emily C. Watkins Elementary.

Schools that demonstrated year-to-year decline included East St. John Preparatory, West St. John High, Fifth Ward Elementary, Lake Pontchartrain Elementary and John L. Ory Communications.

George said West St. John High and John L. Ory were named Equity Honorees for outperforming 90 percent of all schools in the state in student subgroups. WSJH was recognized for outperforming most schools in the state among African-American students, while John L. Ory was recognized for outperforming most schools in the state among Hispanic/Latino students.

Recognized as Top Gains schools — East St. John Preparatory, West St. John Elementary, John L. Ory and Garyville-Mt. Airy Math and Science — were schools scoring an “A” in the Progress category, which measures the number of students who improved their scores on state tests.

The district also saw growth in two key graduation categories, raising its Cohort Graduation Rate 23 points and its Strength of Diploma nearly seven points.

“This means we are graduating more students with more rigorous graduation credentials,” George said.

“More of our students are participating in dual enrollment, more are passing CLEP (College Level Examination Program) and more are graduating with Industry Based Credentials. We’re not just graduating more students, they’re graduating with a better diploma.”

School Board member Keith Jones plans on working closer with the superintendent to increase test scores, saying more training for teachers and administrators is needed.

“Professional development was a hot topic in my campaign,” Jones said. “I would like to see our teachers and our administrators complete more professional development, and they can bring that in the classrooms because that is where it needs to be.”

School Performance Scores are based on student performance including assessments and readiness, graduation, diploma strength and progress. District Performance Scores are also based on student achievement on annual assessments, academic indicators and measures of career and college readiness, such as Carnegie credits earned through ninth grade, graduation rates, ACT scores and earning Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and Dual Enrollment.

School Board President Ali Burl said accountability is a main concern of constituents.

“As a school board, we need to first ensure that the principals and staff has all the resources they need to provide a quality education,” he said. “Once we have given all the resources, we should review semi-annually the progress at all schools and receive progress reports from all schools.”