Parish schools improve

Published 12:06 am Thursday, October 6, 2011

ERIC SHELTON | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT Jadah Lyons, 13, left, and Royrielle Sanders, 14, perform class work during their social studies class Wednesday afternoon at Vidalia Junior High School.

VIDALIA — All but two Concordia Parish schools improved their scores this year, but the district came home with a “C” on its report card, according to scores officially released Wednesday.

The Louisiana Department of Education released letter grades for schools and districts for the first time in state history. And LDE officials said the new system should provide communities and families with a clearer depiction of school performance.

The new system replaces the former star system, which LDE officials have said was “ambiguous,” a press release says.

Concordia Parish School District Superintendent Loretta Blankenstein said the district will continue to focus on improvement.

“We are pleased with the district growth, Blankenstein said. “We still have much room for improvement. And I believe this year we will see additional growth.”

Vidalia schools received three Cs and one B, Ferriday schools and Ridgecrest School received Ds and Monterey High School received a B.

However, the district’s School Performance Score has improved 3.8 points from 87.6 to 91.4 in just one year. And the district’s SPS has improved in the last four years by a total of 8.3 points since 2007.

Parish schools received the following grades:

  • Ferriday High School — D
  • Ferriday Junior High School — D
  • Ferriday Lower Elementary School — D
  • Ferriday Upper Elementary School — D minus
  • Monterey High School — B minus
  • Ridgecrest School — D
  • Vidalia High School — C
  • Vidalia Junior High School — C minus
  • Vidalia Lower — B plus
  • Vidalia Upper — C plus

The scores are calculated according to grade levels and based on factors such as student test scores, attendance, dropouts and graduation rates.

Blankenstein said it was important to note that each letter grade contains a large range of student performance scores.

For example, Monterey High School, which received a B, had an SPS of 118.2, which is 1.8 points away from earning an A.

Some schools received a plus or a minus attached to their letter grades based on whether or not they met growth targets. These plus or minus notations do not indicate higher scores. Schools or districts that met growth targets received plus, those that did not meet growth targets did not receive a plus and those schools whose SPS dropped received a minus.

Concordia Parish is ranked 37th out of 72 schools among a group that includes some districts that contain charter and magnet schools, said Paul Nelson, director of curriculum for the district.

Nearby West Feliciana Parish was ranked third, Catahoula Parish was ranked 24th and Tensas Parish School District was ranked 68th.

According to a LDE release, 44 percent of Louisiana’s public schools earned Ds and Fs; however, in 2007, nearly 55 percent of Louisiana’s schools would have earned Ds and Fs under the new scale.

“We will not stop working until all of our schools receive an ‘A,’ but we also want (the community) to understand that these grades are not truly indicative of the learning or hard work taking place at our schools,” Nelson said.

Blankenstein said the administration and principals will use the information about individual scores and dropout rates to guide instruction, but ultimately scores follow the learning.

“What we focus on is the student learning,” she said. “We try to provide (students) with great instruction to improve learning, and thereby increase scores.”