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Rowland: Schools have ‘baseline data’

by Minden Press-Herald

LEAP scores show mixed results during curriculum transition

Spring 2018 LEAP scores are in, and the results are mixed for both Webster Parish and the state of Louisiana.

The data released July 10 indicates a one-percent increase from last year in students scoring Mastery or better in ELA, mathematics, and social studies combined statewide. Meanwhile, Webster Parish saw a one-percent dip.

Beginning in the fall of 2017, the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education made several changes to the school ratings system in order to move the targeted LEAP score from Basic to Mastery for every student by 2025.

LEAP 2025 includes assessments of ELA, mathematics, science, and social studies for grades 3-12. The tests measure the knowledge and skills contained in the state’s content standards for that particular grade. Student scores are reported on five levels: Unsatisfactory, Approaching Basic, Basic, Mastery, or Advanced. Mastery and above is considered proficient, or ready for the next grade level.

With Mastery as the new target, eight out of ten schools in Webster Parish saw an overall decrease in the number of students grades 3-8 achieving that level.
However, Superintendent of Schools Johnny Rowland said much of these statistics can be attributed to an “implementation dip” as Webster Parish schools transitioned to new curricula this year. In fact, he said the 2017-18 results should be viewed as the new starting point as the district looks to the future.
“Considering we had 100 percent Tier 1 Curriculum implementation in ELA and math, we knew we would see some implementation dip in our first year,” he said. “The scores we are now receiving serve as our baseline data for where we are moving forward.”

The only schools in Webster Parish demonstrating overall growth in the number of students achieving Mastery in grades 3-8 were Brown Upper Elementary School, which increased by one percent, and Webster Junior High School, which increased by eight percent. Webster Junior High leaped from near the bottom in these results in 2016-17 to leading the parish this year.

Rowland said despite being primarily a transition year, some positive results were still encouraging.

“We were pleased by our fourth grade ELA and math scaled scores,” Rowland said. “We saw some increases in each school in every area except one school in math and one other in ELA. Our eighth grade scores in ELA and math also saw improvement, so we were pleasantly encouraged by those results.”

Overall in fourth grade Webster Parish saw a one percent increase in students achieving Mastery or higher in both ELA and mathematics. The eighth grade also made one percent headway in ELA while achieving a large six percent growth in math. Seventh grade saw a one percent growth in ELA while holding steady elsewhere.

Grades three, five, and six were not so positive, showing a combined 26 percent drop in ELA and math. The largest single dip in any subject was the parish’s third grade dropping twelve percent in mathematics.

“After really digging into the scores, we see some things we’re excited about and areas we need to work on,” Rowland said. “There are areas we must improve on, and we knew that going into it.”

Rowland said a large part of how the district will look to address its deficiencies will come through the work of some new positions. Dusty Rowland filled the new role of supervisor of curriculum and instruction, which was created halfway through the school year, and the school board recently approved the creation of nine content coaches to assist her in assessing and equipping teachers across the district.

“Now that we have our first-year results in, we are excited about what the future holds, especially considering having our supervisor of curriculum and instruction and our nine content coaches who will go into our schools and work with and support our teachers in those core tested areas,” Johnny Rowland said. “We’re excited to see what’s going to be the fruits of that initiative, which will be brand new for us in the 2018-19 year.”

Statewide, students hitting the Mastery target in ELA, math, and social studies combined was 34 percent, up by one from last year, compared to 25 percent in Webster Parish, which is down one from last year.

All statistics that indicate year-to-year growth or decline apply to grades 3-8 because LEAP assessments for high school courses were only added this year. When factoring in the high school results for English I-II, Algebra I, and Geometry, Webster Parish’s Mastery percentage rises by one to 26 percent.

Beginning next year, school systems will be able to see growth rates for high school assessments, as well as first-year results for the new science tests.
What growth can be measured for high schoolers comes in the form of the ACT index, which Rowland said is on the rise for Webster Parish. He said the increase is due in part to an emphasis on ACT WorkKeys, a program that has become an integral part of the region’s workforce development collaboration initiative over the past year.

“We’re very excited about the ACT index improvement we’re seeing in our high schools,” he said. “We can attribute a lot of that growth to the fact that we had record number of students take and complete WorkKeys this year. The number of students that took and completed WorkKeys is substantially up from previous years. That’s why you’re seeing the significant growth in the ACT index in Webster Parish, as well as our continued emphasis on ACT prep.”

With a mixed bag of results as the district transitioned to new curricula and standards, Rowland said he is looking forward to seeing the improvement after a full year of consistency.

“Last year was a year of looking at where we’re deficient and putting plans in place to address those deficiencies, and now in the 2018-19 year we will hit the ground running in implementing these plans,” he said.

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