Livingston officials defend drop in school rankings

Livingston Parish School System officials are defending the district’s school performance score ranking after the district dropped from 10th a year ago in the state’s old scoring system to 17th this year under the new method.

The state Department of Education released two sets of scores for all schools and districts this year — one measured under the old system, and one measured under the new.

Livingston ranked 17th among all state public school districts in the new scoring system for 2013 with a 91.1 on a 150-point scale, according to state Department of Education data. The district placed 11th with a score of 117.3 using the old 200-point scaling system.

The district ranked 10th in 2012 with a 117.4 score.

Under the old system, 70 percent of a high school’s performance score was based on state assessments, while 30 percent was based on a school’s graduation rate. Under the new system, high school scores are based evenly on four factors — ACT results, end-of-course test results, graduation rates and diploma quality. The scoring system for elementary and middle schools did not undergo changes that were as drastic.

Livingston Assistant Superintendent Joe Murphy, speaking to the parish School Board at its Thursday meeting, noted the parish’s higher ranking under the old system.

Murphy said the district was concerned about the ACT requirement affecting school performance scores because only about 50 percent of Livingston students in years past took the ACT.

Murphy also pointed to the state’s bonus points system, which awards points to a school district if a certain percentage of non-proficient students reach state-assigned learning targets. He said the district received no bonus points in 2013 under the new system.

Despite the shift in the district’s performance score ranking, Livingston’s school-by-school letter grades from a year ago remained virtually unchanged.

Livingston had 10 schools receiving an A grade and 27 gradged a B for 2013. For 2012, the figures were eight and 28, respectively. The school district had no A schools in 2011, Murphy said.

Despite the optimistic outlook, Murphy and Superintendent John Watson said the district’s curriculum directors are working with every school to raise the district’s scores.

“We are committed to moving forward,” Murphy said. “I know there were people disappointed in our district performance score this year.”

Board member Buddy Mincey said he and other board members have spoken to some principals about the system’s scores. He said the common concern among all of them is funding and personnel, which have been tight in Livingston Parish in recent years.

“You look back at all of the success, all of the things that we had that we were doing — the curriculum coaches, the language program we had in the middle schools — all those things that we had to cut,” Mincey said. “All of those things are making a tremendous difference in our schools.”