Matthew Albright / Houma Courier
The Lafourche and Terrebonne public-school districts each got a C on a state-issued report card released Wednesday, putting them just above average among other systems throughout Louisiana.
This is the first time the state has issued letter grades for schools, and officials say those grades show the state has a lot of work to do.
“The bottom line is that 44 percent of schools received a D or an F, and more than one-third of students are not on grade level. This is unacceptable,” Gov. Bobby Jindal says in a news release. The results “are straightforward and do exactly what we wanted — give parents a clear, accurate picture of the performance of the school their child attends.”
Meanwhile, some local administrators say that, while improvement is needed, the results aren't fair.
“We're not happy with where we are, but I don't think we deserve this grade,” Terrebonne Superintendent Philip Martin said. “Parents are going to see that C and think things are worse than they really are.”
Lafourche Superintendent Jo Ann Matthews has expressed similar sentiments about the grades.
“It's demoralizing, and frankly, damaging to K-12 education,” Matthews told the Lafourche Chamber of Commerce last week.
The letter-grade system was created by the legislature in 2010 as a way to make school-performance evaluations more clear to the public.
The grades are based on school-performance scores, a measurement that has existed since 1997.
State officials say the letter grades will make scores easier for parents to understand.
“Today is the beginning of an honest dialogue with parents and taxpayers,” Board of Elementary and Secondary Education member Chas Roemer said. “Today we change from a system that only a few people in the Department of Education could understand to one that every parent can understand.”
Performance scores are based mostly on standardized test results, although they also factor in attendance, dropout and graduation rates.
Each school receives its own score; school scores are then rolled together to compile a districtwide score.
This is the first year the state has assigned letter grades to accompany the scores.
A school needs to earn a 120 to get an A, a 105 to get a B, a 90 to get a C and a 65 to get a D. A school that earns less than 65 gets an F.
Lafourche Parish earned a district performance score of 95.9, up from 94.4 last year; Terrebonne scored a 97.6, up from 92.3 last year.
That means Lafourche is ranked 28th, and Terrebonne is ranked 25th out of 70 districts.
Both are solidly within the C range. Both are better than the state composite score of a 93.9.
A grade of C means about 25 percent to 36 percent of students are performing below grade level, state officials say.
Only one school district, Zachary Community Schools, squeaked into the A range, with a 121. In all, 14 of Louisiana's school districts, or less than 20 percent, made the honor roll, earning an A or a B.
Some schools earned plus or minus signs with their grades. A plus sign indicates a school met its growth target. A minus sign indicates a school's score slipped by more than a tenth of a point; no sign indicates the school's score didn't slip, but didn't grow enough to meet its target.
The plus and minus signs do not indicate a high or low score; a school with a C-, for example, could have a score higher than a C+ school.
Local school scores varied.
In Lafourche, the highest-performing school was Bayou Boeuf Elementary, with an 117.6-point B+, while the lowest was Raceland Middle, with a 75.3-point D.
Four Lafourche schools earned a B, 17 got a C and seven got a D.
Julie Bourgeois, student-accountability supervisor for Lafourche, said the school district would have had 12 schools get D's if the standards had been implemented a year ago, but the system raised scores at five schools. She said efforts to bring outside contractors to low-performing schools are working; the seven D schools grew, on average, three times faster than the rest of the district.
“This tells us what schools we need to be working on, and we've already started making changes there,” she said.
In Terrebonne, Mulberry Elementary earned the best grade with a 121.7-point A+ — the only A in either parish — while Ellender Memorial High earned the lowest with a 74-point D-.
Besides Mulberry's A, nine Terrebonne schools earned a B, 16 earned a C, and 10 earned a D.
State officials also pointed out that 17 of 38 schools, or 45 percent of schools in Terrebonne, met their target growth; that's the ninth highest rate in the state.
“That shows that, while we have a lot of work to do, we are making a lot of progress,” Martin said.
Local administrators say the state “moved the goal posts” on school districts. State administrators had previously set goals that all schools would reach a score of 100 by 2009, while reaching a score of 120 by 2014.
“Since I've been here, 100 has always been the goal we were aiming for,” Martin said. “You're going to set a goal of 100, and then say that 100 is a C? And then you expect us to have met the 2014 goal already? I don't think that's right.”
Acting State Superintendent of Education Ollie Tyler cautioned against making snap judgments about the grades.
“A C school doesn't mean it's necessarily a bad school,” Tyler said. “It just means there are still students at the schools who are below grade level.”
School scores, grades
- Mulberry Elementary School 121.7 A+
- Bourg Elementary School 114.2 B-
- Dularge Middle School 114.2 B+
- Lisa Park Elementary School 113.1 B+
- Broadmoor Elementary School 112.4 B+
- Upper Little Caillou Elementary School 110.7 B+
- Dularge Elementary School 109.7 B+
- Montegut Elementary School 109.3 B+
- Bayou Black Elementary School 105.8 B+
- Oakshire Elementary School 105.0 B-
- Greenwood Middle School 104.0 C
- Montegut Middle School 100.8 C
- Terrebonne High School 98.9 C
- Caldwell Middle School 98.0 C
- West Park Elementary School 97.9 C+
- Lacache Middle School 97.1 C+
- Coteau-Bayou Blue Elementary School 96.2 C
- Schriever Elementary School 95.8 C+
- Boudreaux Canal/Little Caillou School 95.5 C+
- Acadian Elementary School 95.4 C
- South Terrebonne High School 95.4 C
- H. L. Bourgeois High School 94.1 C
- Pointe-aux-Chenes Elementary School 92.3 C+
- Gibson Elementary School 92.2 C
- Houma Junior High School 91.0 C+
- Honduras Elementary School 90.3 C-
- Grand Caillou Middle School 89.8 D+
- Evergreen Junior High School 87.0 D
- East Houma Elementary School 82.2 D
- Village East Elementary School 81.9 D
- Elysian Fields Middle School 81.7 D
- Grand Caillou Elementary School 79.1 D
- Legion Park Middle School 78.0 D
- Southdown Elementary School 78.0 D
- Oaklawn Junior High School 76.0 D+
- Ellender Memorial High School 74.0 D-
- Bayou Boeuf Elementary School 117.6 B+
- Sixth Ward Middle School 110.4 B+
- South Lafourche High School 110.3 B
- Chackbay Elementary School 109.5 B-
- Galliano Elementary School 102.6 C-
- Lockport Upper Elementary School 102.3 C-
- Larose Upper Elementary School 101.1 C
- Lockport Lower Elementary School 99.6 C
- St. Charles Elementary School 99.0 C-
- Larose-Cut Off Middle School 97.9 C-
- Larose Lower Elementary School 97.4 C-
- Golden Meadow Upper Elementary School 94.8 C
- Thibodaux High School 94.5 C
- Cut Off Elementary School 94.1 C-
- Golden Meadow Lower Elementary School 94.1 C-
- Lockport Middle School 93.0 C
- Golden Meadow Middle School 92.9 C
- South Thibodaux Elementary School 92.4 C
- Thibodaux Elementary School 92.2 C
- Central Lafourche High School 90.1 C-
- Bayou Blue Elementary School 90.0 C+
- West Thibodaux Middle School 87.6 D
- Raceland Upper Elementary School 85.7 D
- East Thibodaux Middle School 84.8 D
- Bayou Blue Middle School 83.8 D
- Raceland Lower Elementary School 82.9 D
- W.S. Lafargue Elementary School 81.1 D-
- Raceland Middle School 75.3 D
SOURCE: Louisiana Department of Education