LAFAYETTE — Northside High School may soon be removed from the state’s list of academically unacceptable schools after the school’s staff detected errors in the state’s calculation of the school’s preliminary accountability score, principal Melinda Voorhies said Monday.
The Louisiana Department of Education in July released preliminary school performance scores for those schools labeled academically acceptable because their scores were below 75 — the state’s new minimum performance standard. Northside’s score fell just below the new minimum, at 74.4; however, in its review of the testing data, 19 duplicate scores were detected, Voorhies said.
With the removal of the duplicate scores, the school’s score is expected to increase by “one to two points or three or more,” but the school is still awaiting confirmation from the state on an updated score, she said.
The improved score is just one bit of good news Voorhies shared with the member organizations of the Lafayette Public Education Stakeholders Council during its visit to the school Monday. The council, known as LaPESC, met at the school to give its official endorsement of the district’s turnaround plan for the school. The plan was enacted on the campus in February.
The plan defines strategies to help students succeed, but it also addresses the needs of the community, said Mandy Mitchell, who represents the young professionals group, The 705, on LaPESC.
“The health of the economy of north Lafayette depends on the health of this school,” Mitchell said.
The group’s chairperson, Margaret Trahan, offered the assistance of LaPESC’s 13 member organizations in fulfilling Voorhies’ vision to improve student performance and increase parental and community involvement at the school.
“There’s a wealth of resources in this room right now,” said Trahan, who is president of the United Way of Acadiana.
The Northside High turnaround plan involves a $2 million investment for a new administration, additional support staff and major facility upgrades. Superintendent Pat Cooper has requested the board earmark another $2.5 million from an upcoming $30 million bond sale to complete the renovations.
On Monday, Voorhies and Cooper both said the plan is working because of buy-in from staff and because of student-centered decision-making.
Voorhies said the school’s ACT score jumped four points, to 17.2, and more ACT prep help has been offered to students.
“My goal now is 21, if not a 23, which would pass the state,” she said.
Another new asset at the school is its academy of legal studies, which expands on the school’s existing law classes and builds upon the success of its mock trial team, which is now preparing for an international competition in New York. The new program is a schools of choice academy, which means its enrollment is open to students across the district.
The LaPESC group took a short tour of the school Monday. Their first stop was the “Viking Wall,” which now holds the photographs of more than 130 students who have had no discipline referrals and have received a C or better. Those students are honored each month with a party and with a chance to win prizes.
Soon, a “Wall of Fame” of distinguished alumni will help link students’ own aspirations to people who walked the same halls, Voorhies said.
Another photo display will feature the entire freshman class. Each student posed recently in a cap and gown and those photos will soon hang from another hallway to serve as a daily reminder of students’ goal — graduation, Voorhies said. Sophomores and juniors will receive an extra push with a new slogan, “Commitment for Commencement.”
“We have to raise graduation rates and decrease drop out rates,” Voorhies said.
Greg Davis, of the LaPESC member organization 100 Black Men, asked Voorhies about the impact of feeder schools on the school’s turnaround plan. Two of the high school’s feeder schools — J.W. Faulk Elementary and Alice Boucher Elementary — also received preliminary performance scores below the minimum standard.
Voorhies said Northside has “adopted” Faulk and Boucher. As part of that adoption, she plans to mentor the schools’ principals and also involve Northside students in volunteer work at the elementary schools. She said another goal is to hold ongoing meetings with the elementary and middle school leaders within the Northside zone to identify strategies that may help all schools raise student achievement together.
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