EP’s district performance scores at 80.9

By: CARISSA HEBERT

Managing Editor

The state’s accountability program began in 1999 when baseline scores were given to each school to track improvement through test scores and other data to create district and school performance scores.

This year’s district performance score (DPS) for Evangeline Parish is 80.9 percent, which ranks them 49th among 69 school systems for the 2007-2008 school year. This is an improvement for the district, which scored 76.7 percent during the 2006-2007 school year.

“We did grow,” Superintendent Toni Hamlin said Friday as she and staff members discussed how the district is working toward improving its goal and assisting schools with all the necessary tools and information to improve education in Evangeline Parish.

According to the state, 1,263 public schools across the state received DPS and SPS (school performance scores) this past week. In a news release, the state said the marked differences between student performances for black, white and economically disadvantaged students have narrowed in both English and Language Arts (ELA) and mathematics. “For example, the achievement gap between black and white students narrowed from 33.7 in 1999 to 25.1 in 2008 when comparing the percentage of students scoring basic or above on high stakes tests. The greatest improvement came in the area of mathematics and how economically disadvantaged students scored compared to other students. In 1999, the gap represented a 13.2 percent difference. Today that number has dropped to 8.9, representing a 32 percent improvement.

State Superintendent of Education Paul Pastork said, “What this tells us is Louisiana’s Accountability System is working, and the measurements are helping us to determine our strengths and weaknesses at the state, district and school level.” He said the data can be used to highlight where weak spots exist in education in order for those practices to be corrected.

In terms of the improvement from last year to this year, the state made notable gains in the percentage of schools that showed improvement based on their 2007 Baseline SPS and their 2008 Growth SPS. In 2007, less than 49 percent, or 555 of the 1,118 schools receiving scores, demonstrated growth compared to 57.6 percent or 639 of the 1,110 schools receiving scores, in 2008.

Pastork said 25 percent (281) of the 1,110 schools in the state met their growth targets or goals for 2008. In Evangeline Parish, Hamlin said Mamou Elementary showed the most growth by claiming 11-and-six-tenths points. This gives Mamou an exemplary growth label. (Schools can be recognized as exemplary growth, recognized growth, minimal growth, no growth, school in decline or no label assigned.)

Mike Lombas, secondary/personnel supervisor, said the state considers a 10 point growth as exceptional growth.

Vidrine Elementary had the second best growth SPS for the second time. Hamlin said approximately three years ago, the school fell nine points in terms of its SPS score. But the school’s SPS score grew 11 points the next year and 6.5 points this year. She said both Mamou and Vidrine will be eligible for reward monies this year.

W.W. Stewart in Basile, the leader in SPS scores even grew two-tenths of a point from 117.6 to 117.8.

Every two years, baseline growth targets are derived for each school. Ville Platte High (VPHS), which has been labeled as an academically unacceptable school (AUS). This is the second year the school is in AUS standing. There are approximately 90 schools in the state with this label.

Hamlin said VPHS grew four-tenths of a point to a 59.6 SPS. The school needs to score 60 to move out of AUS standing. The staff has been working hard to address some of the data at VPHS to improve its growth in terms of accountability. Last year, the daily average was 87 percent at the school, and now it’s 92 percent. “I’m optimistic it’ll get even better,” Hamlin said. The board’s new truancy officer is working to improvement attendance, which is one of the scores that affect DPS and SPS data.

Programs like LINCS, which focuses on subgroups with special needs, has been running for a couple of years. VPHS has a large student population with disabilities. Hamlin and Lombas said significant changes in special education staffing, including the return of a retired supervisor, Kathy Norris, who has certification in this field, has assisted in improving curriculum in this area. They’ve also added an assistant principal with certification in this area and a recent Teacher of the Year.

Model teachers are working with classroom teachers in areas of professional development. Paula Landreneau, Kay Fontenot and Connie Bertrand are model teachers. Lombas also touched on the other programs, like Twilight School (which works on individualized assistance) and after school tutoring that are being used to assist students in achieving.

The Twilight School is utilizing the ODYSEY software, which allows the teacher to manage students easier because it focuses on individual student needs. It allows students to recover grades through a remedial program. After flunking an exam, students have the opportunity to re-study the material and re-take the test in hopes of getting a better grade. This is for students in the ninth through 12th grade. Lombas said there is tutoring for the GEE, as well as other subjects.

In the area of tutoring, VPHS recently had a parent meeting to discuss hiring SES (supplemental education services) agencies. The board approved the services of Achievement Academy, Club Z and Youth Educational Service Academy, all of Baton Rouge, and Sylvan Learning Center of Alexandria. Over 100 parents attended the meeting to learn how their students could receive additional tutoring. The SES program is being offered in accordance with the guidelines mandated by state accountability. As an AUS school, Lombas said the district is required to offer supplemental services.

“If Ville Platte continues on this trend, it should be out of AUS standing by next year,” Darwan Lazard, desegregation compliance supervisor, said.

Programs like AP dual enrollment allow high schools in the parish to gain high school and college credits at the same time. The Louisiana Virtual School program is allowing students to study certain subjects where certified teachers are not available. Lombas said physics is not being taught through this program.

Now that the data is in, the schools will have to look at the data to see where improvement is needed. Lombas said the schools received training last week in trend data analysis, which will assist them in compiling this data and analyzing it.

Pine Prairie, the only school designed as a ninth through 12th grade school, received a grant for $90,000 for three years. These monies will allow the school to create a ninth grade academy, a school within a school. It’s goal is to help students transition to high school. Ninth graders are isolated and placed in smaller classroom settings. Lombas said research indicates if a student fails in the ninth grade, chances are that student will not graduate He said Mamou High did this on a limited basis by placing ninth graders on the first floor. Ninth graders have more opportunities to excel and thus have a successful high school career.

Teachers also have incentives with a FLEX Fund, which has over $217,000 for merit or incentive pay to teachers whose classroom test scores show improvement. Lombas said it has a two-tier system to reward teachers who must meet a percentage growth and for those teachers who have already met the state’s average. Merit pay in this case depends on how high educators surpass that state average.

Overall, Louisiana produced an overall growth SPS of 87.2, a moderate 1.5 point improvement from its 20076 score of 85.7. Louisiana’s K-8 schools fared better than its high schools when it came to state baseline scores.

Hamlin said her staff and the schools will be working hard to improve in the areas of education and test scores. With the DPS improvement, the district is growing and that’s important in terms of accountability.

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