Officials: Louisiana schools performance is improving

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 19, 2000

AP and staff reports

BATON ROUGE, La. – The so-called &uot;mid-term exams&uot; for performance of 1,173 public elementary and middle schools show that 78 percent of them are improving and 42 percent met or exceeded their growth targets that must be met next year.

Each school, when graded initially last year, was given a target to increase its grades by at least 5 percent. Most are on line, officials said at a Wednesday news conference.

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While school accountability is working, ”it’s all going down the tube” if the state does not increase funding for education, Gov. Mike Foster chimed in at the news conference. Foster joined Education Superintendent Cecil Picard and other educators to present performance that has been graded based on tests given to students last spring and on dropout and attendance records from the previous year.

Schools have two year cycles in which to improve. At the end of that time, they are at risk and get even more special help. If there is no improvement, parents can move their students to other schools. In some cases, poor performing schools can be shut down.

Concordia Parish Schools Superintendent Lester &uot;Pete&uot; Peterman said all but two of the parish’s schools posted improvements.

In fact, three of the parish’s schools — Monterey, Vidalia Junior High and Vidalia Lower Elementary — posted improvements of more than 100 percent of their growth target.

Scores for Ferriday Upper Elementary and Vidalia Upper Elementary slipped, however.

The school district, which had already calculated its scores for the year, uses the numbers to gauge success and to plan for improvements. &uot;We look at these numbers very closely,&uot; Peterman said.

Peterman was pleased with the success of the schools which posted improvements. &uot;We’ve had some significant increases overall,&uot; he said. &uot;We know it’s difficult to improve and we try each year&uot; to improve.

The accountability system started for schools last year, and the full effect will not come for another five years.

When the first year’s results were tallied, more than 50 public schools were cited as unacceptable but several hundred were graded below average.

The unacceptable schools are those that run the great risk of being closed if they do not improve on teaching youngsters.

High school grading will be thrown into the mix next year.

Of the 57 schools judged academically unacceptable last year, the latest figures show that all but six showed improvement last spring in the test scores.

The six dropped even further. Of those, five are in New Orleans and one in Baton Rouge.

Of below average schools, 82 fell further behind but not enough to be classified as unacceptable at this point.

Leslie Jacobs, a member of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and a driving force in accountability, cautioned that statistics can be misleading, that all the data will have more reliability as the years go on.

The goal is for all schools to grade at 100 in 10 years.

For those schools not showing growth, the mid-term report should be a wake up call for school systems to take harder looks at the facilities, Picard and Jacobs said.

They agreed with Foster that more funding is needed, particularly for teacher pay and early childhood training.