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School district to focus on ‘D’ schools

by Minden Press-Herald

In light of the changes under the Every Student Succeeds Act, Webster Parish will be targeting two schools to help them raise their district scores.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Dan Rawls says Brown Upper Elementary School and Webster Junior High School were the two lowest scoring schools in the district and will implement some Best Education Practices to work with students at risk.

“Those two schools this past year were ‘D’ schools, when the year before they were ‘C’ schools,” he said. “They didn’t go down on their test scores; their test scores stayed the same. The state raised the bar, even though they scored the same the three previous years. Two-thirds of the districts in the state of Louisiana went down. Over 62 percent of them went down because of that rubric change.”

For the 2015-16 school year, Brown has a school performance score of 57.1, whereas in 2013-14, their score was 72.5. WJHS carried an SPS of 58.2, whereas in 2013-14, their score was 79.4. The Webster Parish district-wide score for 2015-16 is 73, whereas in 2013-14, it was an 83.

ESSA is the new federal regulation that takes the place of the No Child Left Behind Act and will implement comprehensive support.

“It was reviewed all over the United States, and those facets of the NCLB that did not work were taken out,” he said. “Those that are working, they streamlined them to make them a little easier to administer.”

A prime example, he says, is testing.

“We were just testing too much,” he said. “We had teacher-made tests, unit tests from the workbooks, then we had state tests and federal tests. In the new ESSA, they took out a lot of testing, probably 80 percent of it. And teachers are applauding that.”

He says he’d like to see more diagnostic testing to see where the child stands academically and work with them to keep them on task and meet requirements. The idea is to test the child to learn his or her strengths or weaknesses, he said.

“We’re moving more towards teacher-made tests and diagnostics, which is a good thing,” he said.

Some of the educational best practices that will be implemented at Brown and WJHS include increasing the number of instruction hours in ELA and mathematics, reducing the class sizes where possible, diagnostic testing, computer labs to help with remedial ELA and mathematics, professional assistance for students who show weaknesses in core subjects and more time for tasks, just to name a few.

“We have about eight or nine different things we’re trying to do,” he said. “We’re using a lot of diagnostic testing to gauge how fast they’re learning and picking up the material. These kids can learn, but you want to teach them what’s being measured.”

He says at the end of the 2016-17 school year, they will look at both schools to see where they have improved and what still needs work. This will be done on an annual basis, he said, and as they review these two schools, they will be looking at other schools in the district to see where these practices will need to be implemented.

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