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St. Mary gets B under new school grade formula

St. Mary Parish’s dream of becoming an A public school system will have to wait a while.
The new, more demanding formula used by the state accountability system means St. Mary public schools still have a letter grade of B for 2018, but 19.1 points lower than it would have been using the 2017 formula.
Under the old formula, St. Mary would have had an A grade this year.
The key change is that the new standard means students are required to achieve standardized test scores in the range rated as Mastery rather than Basic, as in the past.
The district performance score, calculated from factors including scores and graduation rates, is 81.9 for St. Mary. That’s the 23rd best among 70 Louisiana public school districts. Under the old system, the score would have been 101, up from 99.7 in 2017.
As a group, Louisiana public schools got a B grade with a 76.1 score.
Under the old formula, St. Mary would have been one of 21 A schools this year. Now there are just four: Vermilion, Lafourche, Ascension and Zachary, which had the best districtwide score with 93.6.
Locally, six individual schools would have earned A grades under the old formula. Under the new formula, St. Mary has three A schools: Berwick High (102.8), Morgan City High (91.3) and Patterson High (92.1).
Each of the three schools saw their scores drop 14 or 15 points because of the more demanding new formula.
Four St. Mary schools that would have been A schools under the old formula are B schools now: J.S. Aucoin, Bayou Vista and Wyandotte elementary schools, and West St. Mary High.
Ten of 21 St. Mary public schools had B grades. Two had D’s: LaGrange and Maitland elementary schools.
Statewide, more of Louisiana’s publicly funded early childhood education programs provided care and instruction last school year that promotes kindergarten readiness, state education officials said Thursday as they rolled out the latest data aimed at demonstrating how well schools and pre-school programs are preparing children for their next level of education.
They said 77 percent of the programs provided such care, a 7 percentage point increase over the previous year.
The data included annual performance scores — numbers and letter grades — for school districts and individual schools. The state’s overall score for the 2017-18 school year was 76.1. It’s down from previous years. But officials note that’s because there is a new scoring formula as the state adopts increasingly higher standards. It would have been a 93 — an increase over previous years — under the old formula.
Four of Louisiana’s 70 school districts received an A in the figures released Thursday; 35 districts earned a B; 25 a C. Four districts had a D and two, an F.
In a telephone news conference, Superintendent of Education John White said the rollout reflects changes the state has made to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. Changes include the requirement, being phased in, that the average student at a school demonstrate Mastery of content before the school can receive an A. Parents and others can find out how a school fared by using a new online tool dubbed the Louisiana School Finder. The school finder also includes information on each school’s course offerings and extracurricular activities.
White pointed to signs of continued progress in Louisiana public education, some of which had been reported earlier. A four-year state graduation rate of 78.2 percent in 2017 was the highest in the state’s history. Forty-eight percent of 2017 graduates earned college credit or career credentials valued in high-wage industries, up from 43 percent the year before. And ACT scores indicating college readiness are up 40 percent since 2012.
White said student performance in English and math was steady last year, but the percentage demonstrating Mastery in social studies increased.
School performance scores are based on student performance on standardized tests and on student improvement over a year. Other elements of the scores include dropout and on-time graduation rates, ACT scores, and whether students are taking college-level classes, according to the department.
Evaluation of government funded early childhood education — in early childhood centers, Head Start programs and pre-kindergarten sites — was based on 14,000 observations at nearly 5,300 classrooms, according to an Education Department release. Factors in early childhood education evaluation included a classroom’s emotional environment, classroom organization and instructional support. While improvement was measurable, the department said many children are still not getting proper preparation for kindergarten. And access is uneven. The department said most economically disadvantaged 4-year-olds are served but less than 10 percent of those 2 years old or under are served.

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