With this week’s release of statewide test results where “Mastery” is the new proficiency, School Superintendent Melissa Stilley said Tangipahoa Parish Public Schools are approximately seven points away from a “B” rating, and 23 of the district’s 33 campuses earned a “B” or better in providing academic interventions to help their struggling students grow their test scores over the previous year.
After the state raised the bar on what qualifies as student achievement, Stilley said Tangipahoa Parish students maintained an overall “C” status from the Louisiana Department of Education. The district earned a letter grade equivalency of a “B” in K-12 Progress Points, Strength of Diploma, and Cohort Graduation Rate Indices.
The district increased its District Performance Score by two points in just one year, during its first year of a K-12 high quality curriculum implementation. 2019 district performance scores almost surpass the six-year growth from 2013-2018 of 2.2 points.
“We were less than a fifth of a point away from having more growth in one year of testing than our parish experienced in the six previous years combined,” Stilley said.
The district will need to secure an additional seven points to be labeled a “B” district by the Louisiana Department of Education for 2020. Stilley said she feels confident that the district can accomplish this goal by next year.
“We are in year two of high quality curriculum implementation and everyone is working toward the same goal of proficiency in reading, writing, and mathematics,” Stilley said.
The district is most proud of the data that reflects 23 of the parish schools proved to be very successful in the academic interventions they provided to students. There are six parish schools that earned an “A” Letter Grade for their Progress Index, which means that they had exceptional growth in their students during this past year. Stilley said much of this is due to their strategic efforts to provide interventions to students during the school day in order to eliminate student achievement gaps.
The “A” Schools for Progress Points Index are: Chesbrough Elementary, Independence Magnet, O.W. Dillion Leadership Academy, Southeastern Lab School, Amite Westside, and Woodland Park Magnet School.
"Everyone on our campus must have and maintain a growth mindset,” said Reginald Elzy, principal of Woodland Park Magnet School.
Henrietta Vernon, principal at O.W. Dillon Leadership Academy, concurred. “Our focus here at Dillon has always been on improving learning for ALL students.”
Both principals cited teacher collaboration during this implementation of the new Tier I curriculum as crucial components of their schools’ success.
“Through the redesign of collaboration meetings, working with teachers to internalize and annotate the curriculum, we were able to raise grade-level mastery,” Vernon said. She believes her school’s “persistent, narrowed focus” will help them “continue to improve educational outcomes for our children.”
Elzy described teamwork as the secret to his school’s success. He said every employee supports the work the students are doing and they encourage everything from after-school tutoring and special instruction to general care for students’ success and well-being. He said everyone on campus is learning, including his employees, who are engaged in ongoing professional development all year long.
“I believe that by setting reasonable, attainable school goals focused on yearly academic progress, we will give everyone those small successes that will lead to a larger success of eventually increasing our overall school performance score,” Elzy said.
In addition, 17 parish schools earned a “B” Letter Grade for their successful efforts in providing interventions to close achievement gaps. This includes Champ Cooper, Greenville Park, Independence Leadership, Loranger Elementary, Midway Elementary, Natalbany Middle, Ponchatoula Jr. High, Ponchatoula High, D.C. Reeves, Roseland, Spring Creek, Martha Vinyard, Tucker, Perrin, Hammond Eastside, Hammond Westside, and Loranger Middle.
Southeastern Lab School is recognized as an Equity Honoree and Top Gains School by the Louisiana Department of Education.
Chesbrough Elementary School is recognized by the state as a TOP Gains school moving their overall school performance letter grade from a “C” to a “B” in just one year. Chesbrough had double digit growth in their mathematics assessment index from 2018 to 2019.
Chesbrough Principal Roslyn Varnado described her school’s success as a daily exercise to pursue excellence.
"The remarkable staff and students at Chesbrough chase excellence daily through the use of Tier I curriculums like Eureka and Guidebooks. With excellence in instructional practices by our teachers and following and trusting the curriculum, we were able to achieve great gains in our mathematics last year. We are excited about what is to come as the district has implemented Tier I ELA curriculums in K-2 this year. Our dedicated staff will continue to build meaningful relationships, which will help us continue to think high and reach high,” Varnado said.
Independence High School had double digit growth in their School Performance Score moving the school from a “D” to a “C” school in one year. Independence High School outpaced other high schools in the district with a 98.5 ACT Index in 2019 compared to their 2018 ACT Index of 55.6. Principal Chasity Collier said her team has high expectations for her students, and as a result, her school has made it a policy that if a senior has not scored an 18 or higher on the ACT, that student may not leave school half-day. Instead those seniors remain on campus and work on ACT remediation or WorkKeys.
"It wasn't just one ‘thing' that we did to improve our score; rather it was a compilation of best practices and instructional strategies over the past four years that we implemented with fidelity and subsequently tracked effectively. For instance, our ACT index went from a "D" to an "A" in one year by implementing a few best practices such as requiring all students who did not score an 18 or higher on the ACT to take an ACT remediation class and subsequently test for ACT WorkKeys,” Collier said, adding, "Student progress is our focus and we will continue to raise the bar for our students because they deserve the best opportunities.”
Ponchatoula High School increased its School Performance Score by 1.8 points maintaining its “B” status in the district. Ponchatoula High increased their ACT Index 6.7 points from 73.6 in 2018 to 80.3 in 2019.
The district overall had a six-point jump in their Strength of Diploma Index which is based on the number of credentials students earn while in high school that prepares them for high wage, high demand jobs. In addition, this index is also influenced by students earning carnegie credit for Advanced Placement, CLEP testing and Dual Enrollment.The overall district Strength of Diploma Index was 83.2. Two parish schools were well above the district average for this index. Jewel Sumner High School ranked top in the district for their Strength of Diploma Index of 96.7 which is an increase of 6.2 points from last year. Kentwood High followed second with 92.5 in their Strength of Diploma Index, an increase of 8.5 points from last year.
Principal Jay Stuckey attributed his school’s gains to "our faculty's dedication to excellence in both college and career readiness. We continue to push our students
beyond their own expectations to become marketable graduates with
certifications and credentials that prepare them for any may choose to take.”
Lisa Fussell, Tangipahoa Parish School System’s Director of Academics pointed to the partnership with Northshore Technical Community College as a key ingredient in helping students gain high-wage, high-demand career credentials.
“Our implementation of Jump Start pathways began 6 years ago, and from the start, Northshore Technical Community College has been a partner enabling us to extend opportunities to students to earn Advanced and Basic Statewide credentials. On the north end of the parish, NTCC's Florida Parishes Community College Campus has opened their doors and worked with our high schools to increase opportunities for earning credentials. The schools have been able to add pathways such as: automotive, certified nursing assistant, medical assistant, Welding, and scaffolding to name a few. We are excited to continue to expand programs for students through our partnership with Northshore Technical Community College,” Fussell said.
The latest test scores also show Tangipahoa Parish had its largest gains in Graduation Rates in ten years. The 2019 Cohort Graduation Rate Index was 84.7, an increase of 21.2 index points in one year. Kentwood High School had the highest Cohort Graduation Rate Index of 98, followed by Jewel Sumner High of 97.2, and Loranger High with an index of 93.2. All three of these schools were well above the district average for Cohort Graduation Rate Index.
Kentwood High Principal Rochell Bates said ensuring every student has a pathway to graduation has been critical to his school’s success.
"Kentwood High places an emphasis on ensuring that all students have a graduation pathway toward receiving a diploma. We work closely with our teachers, central office curriculum personnel, and SPED to ensure that we are all on track. Our school counselor checks the students pathways and courses taken to also ensure that the students are taking the proper courses in their pathway and that they are on track to graduate on time. Teachers that teach courses toward certifications in JumpStart also collaborate with the counselor and with the students to make sure all credentials are in line with the state. The district has placed an emphasis on attendance and we do our best to make sure that students are at school which helps our efforts in assisting them toward graduating. We feel that this is one area that we can impact without a lot of problems and we have placed an emphasis on getting this score up,” Bates said.
Hammond High IB Magnet School had a 6.7 point increase in their overall school performance score just falling short 1.6 points from earning a “B” letter grade from the state.
The majority of the district schools maintained their school performance letter grades from last year during this time of new curriculum implementation and proficiency expectations raised to Mastery and Advanced.
“We are so proud of the success our students are experiencing in Tangipahoa Parish public schools,” Stilley said. “Every school has something to be proud of in this report! Of course, none of this would be possible without the dedication and commitment of our Tangipahoa Parish School System team. We have already reached out to every employee to thank them for their work over the last year, and I have encouraged them to press forward with determination and grit to help our students grow their scores even higher this year. Every child’s individual success makes our entire district—and our Tangipahoa Parish community—better and stronger every day.”
“I also want to thank our community for their unwavering support,” Stilley said. “From our families to our extended families, businesses, and local organizations, the constant love and support of our community sends a powerful message to our children that this effort is truly about making their future brighter. Thank you to everyone who helps us in our work educating these students. It truly takes a village, and I am so proud to be part of this Tangipahoa Parish community."