Concordia Parish schools receive grades under new system

Published 12:12am Friday, October 25, 2013

VIDALIA — The Concordia Parish school system received its report card Thursday, and it has one A, three B’s, one C, two D’s and two F’s.

The Louisiana Department of Education released school performance scores for 2013 Thursday under a revamped grading system that changes the calculation for how schools are graded. 102513_ConcordiaReportCard

The biggest change that affected Concordia Parish schools, Superintendent Paul Nelson said, came at the high school level.

“We actually, for the most part, didn’t have any major surprises because we’ve been doing the calculations ourselves for a while and knew which schools were going to suffer because of the system changes,” Nelson said. “We feel like we’re in constant catch-up mode with the changes going on at the high schools.”

In the old calculation, high schools were graded using a combination of 70 percent tests and 30 percent graduation rates.

In the new calculation, half of high school’s grades are based on student achievement — ACT and End-of-Course assessments. The other half is based on graduation — the graduation index, which rewards achievements like advanced placement, the graduation rate.

The changes, the state education department said, are intended to put more emphasis on development of skills students will use after graduation — in college or career training — while making the ACT a requirement for all students.

The new system also includes switching from the previous 200-point scale, with anything below 75 points graded as an F and anything above 120 rated an A, to a new 150-point scale with anything below a 49.9 graded as an F and anything above 100 rated as an A for all schools.

The education department released two letter grades this year — one under the old scale and one under the new scale — to allow comparison and adjustment to the new system.

Vidalia High School received a B, or 88.8, under the new calculation, but an A under the previous method. The school received an A last year.

Ferriday High School received a D, or 69.2, under the new calculation, but a C under the previous method. The school received a D last year.

Monterey High School received an A, or 102.5, under the new calculation and an A under the previous method. The school received an A last year.

Nelson said the drop in scores was expected after the announcement of the new calculation and lack of time to prepare for the changes.

“Historically, our schools have not spent much time on ACT prep because it hasn’t been a core goal,” Nelson said. “So when you tell us one summer in advance that ACT is going to count, it doesn’t seem like we were given an appropriate transition time.

“It seems like they should have given us a year or more to change things.”

The previous grading system for elementary schools counted scores on iLEAP and LEAP state tests for 90 percent of a school’s grade. Student attendance comprised 10 percent of the grade. Under the new system, elementary schools are graded entirely on student test scores.

Middle school grading was previously based on 90 percent test scores, 5 percent attendance and 5 percent on dropout rates. This year, 95 percent is based on tests and 5 percent will be based on how many students drop out or don’t progress to the next grade level.

The school performance scores for each school were as follows:

• Vidalia Lower Elementary, graded B, scored 86.2.

• Vidalia Upper Elementary, graded B, scored 86.2.

• Vidalia Junior High School, graded C, scored 83.

• Vidalia High School, graded B, scored 88.8.

• Ferriday Lower Elementary, graded F, scored 47.5.

• Ferriday Upper Elementary, graded F, scored 47.5.

• Ferriday Junior High School Elementary, graded D, scored 62.2.

• Ferriday High School, graded D, scored 69.2.

• Monterey High School, graded A, scored 102.5.

Concordia Parish Academy of Math, Science and Technology, a magnet program, does not receive grades or scores.

“Because it’s not technically a school but a program, the kids’ scores that are at the program go back to their home schools,” Nelson said. “Overall, we consider ourselves pretty blessed to have maintained most of our scores with so many transitions and changes going on.”

Students who attend schools that are rated F are given the option to relocate to new schools as part of the School Choice program, which is part of the federal No Child Left Behind program.

The program was offered this school year for students at Ferriday Lower and Ferriday Upper elementary schools.

Improving the grades at Ferriday elementary schools as well as Vidalia and Ferriday high schools, Nelson said, are a high priority.

“We’ve been going through a lot of curriculum changes and staff development, and we’re just trying to provide all the support to teachers to try and put them in the best possible place to teach,” Nelson said. “We have a lot of moving parts going on at the high schools, and we’re working really hard to keep everyone positive and successful.”

Statewide, 14 percent of state public schools earned an A, compared to 13 percent last year; 29 percent earned a B, compared to 24 percent last year, 8 percent failed, down from 12 percent last year.