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Rawls: School scores are step in right direction

by Minden Press-Herald

Webster Parish schools scored a “C” on the Louisiana Department of Education’s report card summarizing academic achievement for the 2013-14 school year, and parish Superintendent of Education Dr. Dan Rawls sees that as a positive accomplishment.

“The majority of our schools went up, and that’s a positive. We no longer have “D” schools and last year we had three. That’s a positive. And, the district score went up, ever so slightly but it did go up and that’s a positive,” Rawls said.

Webster scored an 83 percent, up from last year’s 82.8. That compares to the state’s “B” average of 89.2 percent.

“We’re only two points from a “B” and we calculate we’re a “B” district,” Rawls said.

Rawls said the district is still in the process of vetting and auditing the state department numbers. Some principals in the parish have questioned their scores and the state education department has agreed to send a person to talk about the numbers and how they were calculated, he added.

“We suspect the state changed some of the formulas again and we suspect that’s the results we’re seeing,” Rawls said. “That’s why we need to see more data and why we need to audit it on our own. It’s like we’re shooting at a moving target and that isn’t easy.”

Rawls said many components are involved in grading the schools and those include criteria ranging from individual students to student groups.

“Each piece has a component rubric to score on the school level, grade level, the student…all the way down to the subject matter,” he said. “We take language arts, math, social studies per kid and that’s factored.”
In education terms, rubric is a standard of performance for a defined population.

“We once were on a point system, now it is a percentage. Things have changed and changed again,” Rawls said. “There is a tremendous amount of information which reaches down to each child. There are points for dual credit courses, ACT and EOC scores get credit for that child and it depends on his category.”

Rawls said these scoring factors are behind the skepticism of some parish school administrators.

“Some things we see lead us to believe those points are not there. We found 14 kids with errors in just one category and we wonder how did they (the state) get that number when we turned in this number. Again, we just think they changed the formula,” he said.

For Rawls and others in the parish system, formulas and scores and such are just part of the standards which must be dealt with as schools continue to try and improve their overall scores.

“We believe we’re still on target to be a “B” district and we’re confident we’re going to do it. We just hope the state calms down and stops adding new programs and formulas,” Rawls said. “By the time we set up a program, the state changes it. But we’re not complaining, we just have to roll up our sleeves and keep working hard.”

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