Parish schools receive letter grade ranking

Published 12:12 am Saturday, October 25, 2014

VIDALIA — Concordia Parish’s school superintendent said Friday moving targets and at-times unclear standards are part of the reason some parish schools received lower letter grades on their school report cards than last year.

The report card ranking is based on performance benchmarks — largely test scores — set by the state department.

The parish-wide district grade for the 2013-2014 school year was a C.ParishReportCard

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The individual schools fared better than the district average.

Monterey High School received an A grade, and Vidalia High School received a B.

Vidalia Lower and Upper elementaries and Vidalia Junior High received a C grade, while Ferriday High School received a D.

Ferriday Lower and Upper elementaries and Ferriday Junior High all received an F.

Ferriday Junior High and Vidalia Upper and Lower elementaries all stepped down a letter grade from their scores last year.

Superintendent of Schools Paul Nelson said it’s difficult to get an accurate understanding of what the letter grades mean when the system that determines how they are assigned has been changed three times in three years.

This is the second year in which the system has had to work on a 150-point system rather than a 200-point system. Points are based — among other things — on performance measurement tests and graduation rates.

“Just as soon as we feel we have learned the rules, the rules have changed,” Nelson said.

One example of how changes hurt the district’s scores this year was bonus point calculations.

While students who store below certain proficiency levels don’t count toward a school’s final score, the school can earn bonus points if it can demonstrate that a significant portion of those students are making improvements beyond what the state has forecast for their academic growth.

Last year, schools got points if more than 30 percent of students in those underperforming groups showed growth, Nelson said.

“This year, that rule changed to 50 percent,” he said. “The majority of our schools had numbers between 45 percent and 49.5 percent, and that took bonus points away from our schools.”

Ferriday Junior High’s percentage of non-proficient students showing improvement was 49.64.

“That is basically one student (from bonus points),” Nelson said. “’Very  frustrating’ is a very polite way to put it.

“That is great for the kid and it is great that we are showing the growth, but it doesn’t generate any points in the formula.”

The tests taken in the 2013-2014 were more difficult than previous years, Nelson said, and this year’s test will be more difficult.

The state’s apparent vacillation over standards has also made preparing students more of a challenge, he said.

“For the most part, you are in a marathon, not a sprint, so things are not going to happen overnight,” Nelson said. “If you slide a skill that use to be a 7th grade skill to the 5th grade, that has an effect on 6th grade too. For the first year or two, that kid has already been pushed up to sixth grade before the teacher was ever told that (skill) was something they would have to do.”

Nelson said the school district is reviewing its standards and looking for ways to facilitate communication between teachers, administrators and even schools.