Webster Parish schools improved overall, according to scores released by the Department of Education Thursday, but some schools are still struggling.
Overall, the district received a score of 79.9, or a letter grade C, up nearly 7 percent from last year. In grades three through eight, 27 percent of students reached mastery or above on test scores, just below the state average at 33 percent.

Eleven of 16 schools in Webster Parish were given the letter grade of C. The highest scoring school was North Webster High School with a “B,” and a school performance score of 89.1, coming up from an 86.3. Lakeside Jr./Sr. High School also scored a grade “B,” with a school performance score of 88.8.

Webster Junior High School, Browning Elementary and Brown Upper Elementary remain the lowest scoring schools, all receiving a “D” letter grade.

At the high school level, 18.7 percent of students reached an average score on the ACT, nearly at the state’s average of 19.3 percent. Graduates earning an 18 or above on the ACT were at 60 percent.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Dan Rawls said this is because Webster Parish offers a course on taking the ACT test, giving them the materials they need to pass the test. Those materials include the types of questions that will be on the test, how the questions are presented and the skills needed that might not be given in the regular classroom.

“We implemented Educational Best Practices,” he said when ACT scores came out in August. “We did not take the chance of the child on his own going through the coursework and then taking the test. We put ACT classes in our high schools. Kids are actually learning how to take the test, how it’s written, its format, but more than that, it’s the objectives of each subject that we know are going to be test questions. Many of our kids are getting a leg up, because they are specifically being taught items we know are going to be on the test.”

Overall, Rawls said, following Monday’s board meeting, he is proud of the improvements the district has made while he acknowledges the challenges that still lay ahead. The biggest challenge, he has said in the past, is the state keeps changing the curriculum, making it more difficult for schools to attain higher letter grades and school performance scores.

When the state released the scores Thursday, State Superintendent John White said the system does not “reflect the gains made by many schools that are making great progress.”

“The ratings do not yet recognize progress being made with students who are starting at a lower level,” White said. “They also do not yet provide students, parents, and educators a full picture of what it takes to be fully prepared for college or for a job. Just as we honor the successes reflected by today’s announcement, we must provide a more comprehensive picture of what it means to be a successful school.”