School scores released

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 10, 2003

BATON ROUGE &045; Louisiana public schools must do a better job of educating black students, state education officials said as they released annual performance rankings of the state’s 66 school districts.

Thursday’s news conference included a mixed bag of statistics showing 35 districts with at least some overall improvement and 30 losing ground. It also marked the first time the state has released scores measuring the way the districts educate ”subgroups” based on ethnicity and income.

The statistics showed white students in grades K-12 with a subgroup performance score just two points shy of the state’s 10-year goal of 100. Black students’ score was 55.7.

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Low-income students (as determined by the number in a free or reduced-price lunch program) scored 64.8.

”Districts need to begin to look at how they address the performance gap in subgroup performance,” Education Superintendent Cecil Picard said.

For its part, white students in Concordia Parish showed an accountability score of 96.9; black students, 56.1.

But the district is already taking steps to narrow that gap, said Superintendent Lester &uot;Pete&uot; Peterman. Those steps include:

4Putting curriculum coordinators in lower-performing schools.

4Lowering class ratios in schools with a large number of black students.

4Implementing after-school and summer tutoring programs.

4Introducing more technology into the classroom, &uot;since some students don’t have access to that at home,&uot; Peterman said.

4Coaching parents on how to better help their children with such things as homework. &uot;The key is parental involvement.&uot;

&uot;We’re trying to make sure that all students have access to the curriculum, with qualified, certified teachers and a low number of students in each class,&uot; Peterman said.

Among the statistics released Thursday was the fact that the school district with the highest black enrollment, New Orleans, did the worst job of any district in educating black students, with a performance score of 42.3 percent.

Plaquemines Parish had the best black performance scores with 78.5.

Leslie Jacobs, a member of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, pointed out that Plaquemines is a smaller district with a much smaller percentage of black enrollment, 33.2 percent to Orleans’ 93 percent.

Still, Jacobs noted that Monroe City Schools, with 87.9 percent black enrollment, have a score of 60 for black students.

New Orleans did the best job in educating its relatively small enrollment of whites (3.8 percent). White students in New Orleans had a performance score of 122.2.

That may be because the small percentage of whites who stay in public schools in New Orleans attend magnet schools such as Benjamin Franklin, the top performing public school in the state.

Jacobs said the way teachers are assigned &045; whether the best teachers are put with the students who need them most &045; will be the major factor in trying to close the gap among subgroups.

Another key will be making sure students can read at their grade level by the time they reach third grade, she said.

Closing the performance gap by raising the scores of black and poor students may be critical to getting future federal education funding. A recent analysis by the Public Affairs Research Council notes that the state may at some point be required under the federal No Child Left Behind Act to use subgroup scores in determining overall school performance scores.

The grading system for school districts looks at students’ performance, the schools’ improvements in accountability measurements, results of the LEAP high-stakes test, the districts’ effort in summer school for those who failed the LEAP test in the spring and the number of certified teachers.

Thursday’s statistics on overall district performance showed five suburban parish districts had the highest K-12 accountability scores: St. Tammany with 104.9, Livingston with 103.5, West Feliciana with 101, St. Charles with 98.8 and Jefferson Davis with 95.5.

The bottom five: Tensas with 54.5, East Feliciana with 54.2, St. Helena with 47.3, Orleans with 46.4 and Madison with 44.8.

This was the first time the state included performance scores for grades 9-12, so those statistics could not be compared to previous years.

Comparisons of 2001 and 2002 scores for K-8 showed 35 districts improving, with Claiborne, Jackson, Caldwell, Acadia and DeSoto showing the most growth.

One parish stayed the same and 30 declined. Some declines were small but six districts had declines of four points or more and Red River was the worst with a decline of more than nine points from 62.6 to 53.4.

”We cannot have these parishes go backward,” Jacobs said. ”Clearly they need to improve.”