Most Louisiana schools and districts saw their 2021 state performance scores drop amid a global pandemic and last year's unprecedented hurricane season and winter storm, following national trends and statewide LEAP test data.
In the eight-parish Acadiana region, only one school system saw growth in its scores. The Lafayette Parish School System's district performance score increased from 78.9 in 2019 to 81.6 in 2021, both of which are considered B's on the state letter grade scale.
However, this year's scores are considered "simulated" and do not come with an official letter grade due to federal and state accountability waivers. Effectively, districts and schools will keep their performance score from 2019 while relying on the data from the 2021 simulated scores to guide instructional decisions, according to a release.
"2020-2021 was a year unlike any other, and results cannot be accurately compared," reads a Louisiana Department of Education statement. "Also, by not producing official school performance scores, the Department and BESE are able to make good on the commitment to not utilize this data for evaluative purposes."
Statewide scores fell 1.8 percentage point — from a 77.1 B in 2019 to a 75.3 B in 2021. Like other parts of the country, schools across Louisiana closed mid-spring 2020 and testing was waived altogether.
Education officials anticipated the drop, as already released standardized test data told a similar story. Louisiana saw a broad decrease across all grade levels on LEAP 2025 assessments taken last spring, and these factor into school and district performance scores.
"Given the already released statewide LEAP data, school performance scores were expected to be impacted," according to the Department of Education. "The majority of schools and districts would have seen a decrease in their performance score this year had official letter grades been produced and new scores assigned."
Other factors of performance scores include data on dropouts, graduation rates, ACT scores and a "progress index" that reflects students' growth in standardized test scores.
Zoom in on Acadiana
Lafayette's 2.7 overall increase in district performance is the fifth-highest growth among school systems statewide, with only 17 of the 64 parishes across Louisiana seeing increases in student performance.
LPSS administrators credit this growth to continuing to make student achievement its top priority, reflected in increases for 21 of 44 schools as well as significant academic gains among schools labeled Comprehensive Intervention Required (CIR).
"I am extremely proud of our school system, which despite many barriers to learning, pushed hard for students," Superintendent Irma D. Trosclair said. "While we celebrate the overall increase in student performance, we understand the importance of the critical work that lies ahead and urge our entire Lafayette community to continue to work collaboratively in the best interest of the students we serve."
The simulated scores will be used for informational planning as we address learning gaps through intervention and enrichment, extended learning opportunities, ongoing recovery efforts, robust summer learning, and a focus on truancy, according to a release.
"We must remain focused on making decisions that impact our students in the most positive way," Trosclair said. "Having a strategic approach to academic recovery and acceleration may deter any potential impacts disproportionately affecting our students’ educational careers. This is a major responsibility on the part of all adults who play a role in the lives of students."
Two districts in Acadiana had scores dip enough to drop them a letter grade should the state have issued new ones. Evangeline Parish School District fell 4.6 points, which would have shifted them from a B to a C.
Vermilion Parish School System saw its long-held A fall to the B range with a drop of 4.3 percentage points. The system had maintained an A score since 2016 and was the only one in Acadiana's eight parishes to have an A in 2019. It was the second-highest scored district in the state at that time.
Despite the drop, Vermilion remained in the top five school districts in the state with its latest score. Superintendent Tommy Byler said in a release that the district saw increases and decreases, but that all VPSS schools experienced growth in at least one subset of their score, with 25% of students taking school virtually last year.
He said Vermilion was in line with the rest of the state, as 75% of the districts in the state also experienced drops in scores. He said he's pleased with this outcome after all the obstacles schools have faced in recent years and feels confident moving forward.
"Knowing the lost time we went through with the hurricanes and the lack of 1:1 technology for virtual learning days, we were not completely surprised by the slight decrease," Byler said in a release. "All in all we know that we have the systems in place and will continue to work on making up lost learning and move forward to greater successes in the coming years."
St. Landry Parish saw the slightest decrease in Acadiana with a drop of 1.7 percentage points to 68.2, which is still in the C range. The district has created and implemented several initiatives to address learning loss, including a four-week summer program called Camp Accelerate and afterschool tutoring and learning opportunities throughout this school year.
“We will continue to utilize our (federal) ESSER dollars to fund these programs into the 2022-2023 school year,” reads an SLP release.
The Acadiana district that experienced the biggest drop was St. Martin Parish, with a decrease of 6.3 percentage points from 2019 to 2021.
LDOE District Performance Scores
Statewide: 77.1 in 2019; 75.3 B in 2021
Acadia Parish: 81 B in 2019; 78.4 B in 2021
Evangeline Parish: 76.8 B in 2019; 72.2 C in 2021
Iberia Parish: 81 B in 2019; 76.7 B in 2021
Lafayette Parish: 78.9 B in 2019; 81.6 B in 2021
St. Landry Parish: 69.9 C in 2019; 68.2 C in 2021
St. Martin Parish: 73.3 C in 2019; 67 C in 2021
St. Mary Parish: 85.4 B in 2019; 82.3 B in 2021
Vermilion: 92.8 A in 2019; 88.5 B in 2021
Contact children's issues reporter Leigh Guidry at Lguidry@theadvertiser.com or on Twitter @LeighGGuidry.
This article originally appeared on Lafayette Daily Advertiser: School performance scores: How did your district do?