Every school district and almost every public school in the greater Baton Rouge area showed academic improvement, some dramatically, during the 2011-12 school year, according to school performance scores released Monday by the state.
Almost 86 percent of the public schools in East Baton Rouge Parish and the seven surrounding public school districts improved compared with the 2010-11 school year. Among area school districts, Zachary, Central, West Feliciana and Ascension earned “A” letter grades, Livingston earned a “B” and the East Baton Rouge Parish school system improved its letter grade from a “D” to a “C.”
The fastest-improving schools were Walker Freshman High School in Walker, which improved by 40 points, and Donaldsonville High in Donaldsonville, which improved by 32.4 points.
Out of 198 public schools in the area that earned school performance scores in 2010 and 2011, three were unchanged and 25 schools declined. Bakerfield Elementary in Baker and Claiborne Elementary in Baton Rouge declined the most, 7.3 and 7 points, respectively.
The state as a whole improved nine points, from 93.9 to 102.9.
Districts with performance scores of 120 or out of a possible 200 points are rated as “A” districts.
Among school districts in the greater Baton Rouge area, St. Helena Parish, which runs just two schools, had the most improvement, 13.8 points, followed by Zachary, which had 13.4 points improvement.
The school district in the greater Baton Rouge area with the slowest improvement rate was Iberville Parish, which grew by just two points.
Despite its improvement, St. Helena Parish scored only a 71.8 and an “F” grade. Similarly, the state-run Recovery School District schools outside New Orleans, including nine in the greater Baton Rouge, scored 58.9, making it the other “F” ranked public school district in Louisiana.
Schools and school districts earn “F” letter grades if they have performance scores of less than 75, up from 65 a year ago.
At a news conference Monday afternoon, East Baton Rouge Parish Superintendent Bernard Taylor, who took over in June from outgoing Superintendent John Dilworth, credited the “exemplary work” of school staff for the growth of 6.7 points, below the average for growth across the state, but enough to improve one letter grade. The district has improved 18.8 points overall since 2008.
Taylor said the growth is noteworthy coming at a time when the state has made sweeping changes in public education, including tight restrictions on teacher tenure, and an array of new school choice options including state-funded vouchers for private and parochial schools.
“With all the pressures that have been put upon us, no one has thrown in the towel,” he said.
This latest batch of school performance scores were among the strongest seen since Louisiana began school accountability in the late 1990s.
For elementary and middle schools, 90 percent of their school score consists of results from standardized tests given each spring.
The rest is a mix of attendance and dropout rates.
High schools are different. Seventy percent is test scores and the remainder is a “graduation index” that includes several factors, including graduation rates.
The high school tests are changing. The graduation exit exam has been phased out in favor of a growing number of end-of-course exams. In the future, ACT scores will figure heavily into a high school’s score.
A total of 31 schools operating last year did not receive school performance scores Monday. These include six state-overseen charter schools in the greater Baton Rouge area, five managed by Advance Baton Rouge, and Crestworth Learning Academy in Baton Rouge, which was operated by a charter school connected with Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church. All are run by the Recovery School District.
Also not receiving scores Monday were Istrouma High School and EBR Lab Academy. Both shared space on the Istrouma campus in Baton Rouge. EBR Lab was closed in May when the state announced the month before it would take over the management of Istrouma High.
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