NEW ORLEANS — What state officials term steady, if modest, progress in public school students’ overall test scores and graduation rates resulted in a small increase in the number of schools earning an A in the state’s accountability program, the Education Department said Tuesday.
The number went up from 187 last year to 241 this year, out of more than 1,300 schools measured.
The climb was announced along with cautions from state Education Superintendent John White that higher standards are being implemented and that the road for public school teachers and administrators is going to get tougher beginning in 2016 as the state raises the performance bar.
“On the one hand, schools are responding to what they have been asked to achieve and the school report cards reflect that. That’s why there are increases,” White said in a telephone news conference. “On the other hand, we are transitioning to a much higher bar. And soon that bar is going to make it much more difficult for schools to maintain these high marks.”
Performance scores and the accompanying letter grades for individual schools, school districts and the state itself are based on student test scores. In upper grades, high school credits earned and graduation rates also are factors.
Since the accountability system was put in place in 1999, the state has sought a “basic” level of achievement, reflecting fundamental skills in subjects like reading and math. Now, as the state adopts “Common Core” standards, the move is toward “mastery” — a level considered college- or career-ready. By 2025, an A school will be one in which most students are achieving “mastery” of subject matter.
Tests are already getting tougher. To ease the transition, the department implemented a program approved by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, adjusting scores this year and next, to reflect no overall drop in performance at any grade level.
Still, White said, schools had the opportunity to improve their grades, and some did, as reflected in the higher number of A schools. But, he added 195 individual schools dropped in grades.
In 2016, he said, the going will get much more difficult.
In the figures released Tuesday, the state system earned a B, with an 89.2 performance score.
Ten districts earned an A; 30, a B; 21, a C and 11 a D, with no Fs.
As for overall school performance, the total number of failing schools numbered 104 this year, down from 109 the previous year; B schools dropped from 388 to 366; C schools dropped from 382 to 350. The number of D schools was about the same, dropping slightly from 270 last year to 268.