Webster Parish touts an 82.7 percent graduation rate in 2014-15, just under the national average, but above the state average.
The state graduation rate for the 20014-15 year is at 77.5 percent, an increase of almost three percentage points from 2013-14’s rate at 74.6 percent. National graduation rates are at 83.2 percent.
However, test scores appear to be declining on a national scale in grades 3-8. Webster Parish is still below the state and national average in all subjects. State documents show the parish declined from 52 percent scoring good or excellent in 2013-14 to 47 percent in 2015-16, a five-point decline.
Scores released in August show in English Language Arts, grades 3-8, percentages range from 24 percent to 37 percent reaching mastery and the same range reaching basic scores.
In mathematics, in the same grades, percentages range from 15 percent to 34 percent.
In 2015, NAEP statistics show in mathematics that 40 percent of fourth-graders are at or above proficient in mathematics. That number decreases by the time they reach the eighth grade at 36 percent, and again by their senior year at just 25 percent.
In reading, national percentages show a slight increase from fourth grade to their senior year. About 36 percent are at or above proficient in the fourth grade, at 34 percent in the eighth grade and at 37 percent their senior year.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Dan Rawls says the parish and state test scores appear to be declining because the curriculum continues to change in an attempt to keep up with a global market. On the other hand, he says comparing the U.S. to other countries, in some ways, is akin to comparing apples and oranges.
“One of the criticisms is that some states aren’t using Common Core, and their math scores are equal to or higher than ours,” he said. “They brought it in, and said, ‘Here it is.’ No textbooks, no workbooks, no training. This argument has been out there forever. You have many nations that separate out their children.”
In response to other countries surpassing the U.S., on the state level, training has been implemented to help teachers and students transition to the new state standards.
“The state department is coming in and working with us with best practices in our lower grades, but they seem to be pretty satisfied with our high schools,” he said. “More than that, our cohort graduation rate was in the high 80s percentage-wise. That means a kid that started in the ninth grade with his class graduated on time.”
The concern remains with the lower grades because students are not getting the foundation to build upon as the curriculum keeps changing, he said. That is a huge concern with mathematics, despite the fact that the district is focusing on mathematics and reading.
“As long as they keep changing the curriculum, we’re going to have this problem,” Rawls said.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.