8 schools lauded for ‘top gains’

State Superintendent of Education John White recognized eight Lafayette Parish schools Friday with cash awards of nearly $8,500 for making “top gains” on state accountability measures.

A total of 440 schools statewide received “top gains” recognition and a nearly $8,500 stipend each to spend on educational purposes for meeting or exceeding performance growth targets set by the state.

In Lafayette Parish, that distinction went to Acadiana High, L.J. Alleman Middle, Ovey Comeaux High, L. Leo Judice Elementary, Lafayette High, Youngsville Middle, J. Wallace James Elementary and Early College Academy.

“To the schools that hit your target, it is first and foremost a credit to you because you all go to one of the fastest-improving schools in our state,” White told students, faculty and staff gathered for a ceremony Friday afternoon.

Acadiana High exceeded its growth goal and moved from an accountability label D to a B.

Principal David LeJeune said a school committee will decide in the spring how to spend the money. LeJeune, who joined the school this school year, said the recognition is credit to gains made by last year’s students, faculty and staff.

“It’s going to boost the morale of the teachers and students because they worked extremely hard to get from a D to a B,” LeJeune said before the ceremony. “This gives us additional resources to move toward our goal of being an A school.”

As part of Lafayette Parish Schools Superintendent Pat Cooper’s goals for the district, all principals have two years to move their performance label up one letter grade.

Principals from the other seven schools that reached or exceeded their growth targets also attended the ceremony.

Pat Cooper applauded the eight schools’ achievement.

“It’s not so much the money that counts, but the effort,” he said. “You’re one of only 440 schools in the state.”

On Friday, White also awarded the district a $150,000 grant to implement a writing program targeting special-needs students at Acadiana High, Scott Middle and Westside Elementary.

The district is one of 16 districts and charter school organizations to receive a grant from the state’s new Believe and Include program, created to improve student achievement for special-needs students.

Grants were capped at $50,000 per school for the 85 participating schools, according to the Louisiana Department of Education.

White said the state funded the program with $4 million in federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act monies recouped by eliminating unproductive programs.

About one in 10 students in the state’s public school system has some type of designation for special education services, White said.

The idea was to spark innovation and identify successful programs that could be replicated across the state, he said.

In Lafayette Parish, the three schools in late January will implement a program called “I Write,” said Bart Thibodeaux, the district’s special education director.

The program uses technology to help students improve their writing skills through “hands-on inclusion, a model where students with disabilities are in the classroom with nondisabled students,” Thibodeaux said.