While Zachary remains the top school district in Louisiana, the state’s latest way of rating public schools has changed the picture in small and less small ways.
In performance scores released Thursday, four of the top 10 school districts are in the Baton Rouge metro area, just as they did a year ago, but their spots at the top of the ladder shifted.
Ascension jumps from seventh to third while West Feliciana fell three spots to sixth place and Central slipped from fourth to eighth.
East Baton Rouge Parish, one of the largest school districts in Louisiana, jumped 11 spots in the rankings from 52nd to 41st place out of 71 districts rated.
The school system has improved more than 23 points in the past six years, though the new rating system from now on will make future results incomparable to the past.
At the School Board meeting Thursday night, East Baton Rouge Parish Superintendent Bernard Taylor showed off a handful of principals from schools recognized for “top gains,” meaning they had many struggling students who improved on standardized tests.
“There is no greater reward as a principal than to see your students thrive,” Taylor said.
The results released Thursday are hard to compare with past years for many reasons, including the shift from a 200 to a 150-point scale.
Standardized test scores used to account for 90 percent of elementary and middle school results. That’s increased to 100 percent for elementary and 95 percent for middle schools.
Many schools at that level showed improvement.
Five schools within East Baton Rouge Parish improved more than one grade level, including Bernard Terrace Elementary, Central Middle, Kenilworth Science and Technology, Park Elementary and Park Ridge Academic Magnet schools.
High schools have gone in the other direction in terms of test emphasis. Test scores used to account for 70 percent.
Now, end-of-course exams account for 25 percent and ACT scores account for 25 percent. A
CT had not been part of the formula in the past. The remaining 50 percent of a high school’s score stems from a school’s graduation rate and the quality of the diplomas students earn.
Among public high schools within the parish, Belaire, Capitol, Central, and Scotlandville high schools improved a letter grade, but Broadmoor High, Madison Prep, the twin Mentorship academies and McKinley High schools all declined a letter grade.
In August, the state released a preliminary list of F-ranked schools. East Baton Rouge Parish learned then that 11 of schools had this bottom rating, down from 20 in 2012.
On Thursday, 11 became 10. Lee High was able to show, after substantial data cleanup, that its true score was 50.0, the lowest possible D.
Lee High, which reopened in 2012 after three years closed, changed yet again this past summer, becoming a magnet school and is not expected to flirt with academic jeopardy in the future.
Seven of the 10 remaining F schools are either alternative or charter schools, where student go either by choice or for academic or disciplinary reasons.
Only Claiborne Elementary is the only traditional school with an F-rating in the parish school system.
Two more F schools, Delmont Elementary and Mayfair Middle, were closed and reopened as much different schools.
The state department, however, is so far refusing to give those schools new site codes, meaning they remain targets for future state takeover. Ironically, both Delmont and Mayfair, in their old incarnations, earned recognition for “top gains.”
Of the eight Baton Rouge schools that the state has taken over since 2008, now all part of its Recovery School District, five continue to have F grades, an improvement from last year when eight had Fs.
Capitol High, Glen Oaks Middles and Kenilworth Science and Technology Charter all improved out of F status.
Capitol High and Kenilworth showed the most growth among these RSD schools. Kenilworth, the only charter school RSD currently oversees in Baton Rouge, jumped from a F all the way to a C grade.
The only other school district in the parish with F schools is the Baker school district, namely Baker Heights and Bakerfield elementary schools. Baker Middle improved from a F to a D, while Park Ridge
Academic Magnet jumped from a D to a B grade.
At the top end of the scale, all five schools in Zachary remain A schools, and four out of five of Central schools had As.
Ben Franklin Magnet High in New Orleans remained at the top of the heap among the state’s 1,300-plus schools. Baton Rouge Magnet High’s ranking statewide slipped from fourth to seventh under the new rating system.