Tougher standards mean more La. schools 'failing'
BATON ROUGE – The Louisiana Department of Education has released its annual School Performance Scores (SPS) report and the news is not good.
The number of Louisiana public schools considered failing, or "academically unacceptable," under the state's accountability program jumped from 48 last year to 135 this year. The silver lining does provide a bit of hope as the large jump doesn’t necessarily mean that schools are getting worse.
The state education department said that, overall, schools improved their performance scores. However, the higher number of failing schools is due to higher performance standards that took effect this year.
Also, this year's figures include "alternative schools" that serve students with academic or behavioral problems. Those schools were not included in last year's rankings.
"We predicted a significant increase in the number of schools that would initially fail to meet the minimum standard," Acting State Superintendent of Education Ollie Tyler said in a department news release. "But I have no doubt that we will see schools quickly overcome this status, given the history of our districts and schools in responding to tougher standards."
The department noted that more public school students than ever are performing at the appropriate grade level.
And six schools improved enough to be taken off the failing list, despite the tougher standards.
For 2011, the minimum score needed to avoid the "academically unacceptable school" label jumped to 65, up five points from last year. Next year, it goes up again, to 75. The department said that a school with the minimum score of 65 is a school where approximately 61 percent of the students are performing below grade level.
Thirty one traditional schools - non-alternative schools that have not already been taken over by the state’s Recovery School District - were added to the list of failing schools after the higher standards were applied, bringing the total number of traditional schools with the unacceptable label to 48. Within the Recovery School District, which was established by the state to take over and try to improve foundering public schools, there are 32 failing schools. Fifty-five alternative schools fell below the minimum standard.
Two other lists were released by the LDOE, one focusing on Recovery School Districts (RSD) and the Academic Watch List and Subgroup Component Failure (SCF).
Acadia Parish had no issues on the AUS list and is not a RSD, but two schools are on the academic watch list, Crowley Middle School and Rayne High.
Last year the department issued an Academic Watch list for the first time. The 2010 Academic Watch List included 201 Louisiana schools that earned a 2010 SPS between 60 and 74.9. This year’s Academic Watch list includes 155 schools that earned an SPS between 65 and 74.9, which would earn them the AUS label in 2012. While schools on the Academic Watch list do not currently face sanctions, the list provides schools with notice that they will fall into AUS status if they do not raise their SPS above 75.
This year’s release by the department also identified 31 schools that failed to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) in reading or math for identified subgroups. These schools are designated as School Improvement I (SI 1) or School Improvement 2 (SI 2) and must adhere to sanctions outlined by No Child Left Behind (NCLB).
Schools can exit the list after passing the Subgroup AYP for two consecutive years in the subject they failed.
Crowley Middle is now considered a SI2 while Rayne High is a CA1.
Three schools exited subgroup component failure this year by meeting their AYP for two consecutive years in the subject in which they failed. Those schools are Winbourne Elementary School in East Baton Rouge Parish, Jeanerette Senior High School in Iberia Parish, and Destrehan High School in St. Charles Parish.
An "academically unacceptable school" is required to adopt new strategies aimed at improving performance each year it fails to meet minimum standards. Those that fail four consecutive years can be taken over by the RSD. None of the traditional schools listed as failing Tuesday are slated for such a takeover. Some that have been failing for more than four years are operating under special agreements with state education officials.