Terrebonne schools progress a challenge

Dave’s Picks: Smooth, Rough and Beautiful
November 15, 2011
Ronald McGee
November 17, 2011
Dave’s Picks: Smooth, Rough and Beautiful
November 15, 2011
Ronald McGee
November 17, 2011

Numbers can be a statistician’s dream and a school superintendent’s nightmare. This is certainly true in the Terrebonne Parish School District where Superintendent Philip Martin has been first to say that more needs to be done to improve student performance and graduation levels for the K-12 system he leads.

Martin has at times been critical of Louisiana Department of Education figures, and stated that they frequently confuse reality with desired appearances. He is also first to defend his principals and teachers for doing what they have with the tools available to them, and has challenged local educators to work in relation to long-term and lasting improvements rather than short term and shallow accomplishments.

His strategy may soon be offering significant results.

According to state data, Terrebonne Parish schools, for the third consecutive year, have posted an increase in overall performance scores, based on testing among 3rd through 8th grades, as well as 10th and 11th grade students and documentation of graduation rates.

“Each school receives a school performance score and each district received a district performance score,” Martin said.

Martin has repeatedly noted during the issuing of any of the state’s 15 separate student testing reports and seven different measurements of attendance and dropout rates, that improvements made in the lower grades, where he said a foundation of learning must be established, is gradually moving into the higher grades.

The state of Louisiana has 70 school districts representing 1,334 schools. In six categories, Terrebonne Parish schools now rank in the top 35 percent of what a state known for a struggling public education system has to offer.

Among the state’s 70 school districts, Terrebonne is No. 3 on the percentage of schools demonstrating gains during the academic year ending in 2011, and No. 8 based on the percentage of schools achieving growth targets.

When it comes to positive changes in district performance between 2010 and 2011, Terrebonne is listed at No. 13. The school district is also No. 14 in percentage of change between the years of 2008 and 2011.

Ranking on a new letter grade system lists Terrebonne at No. 22 among those in the state that earned a grade of A or B among individual schools in the state, with 10 schools earning the A or B letter grade.

The Terrebonne Parish School District received an overall letter grade of C for 2011 from the LDE.

“We are not satisfied with a grade label of C,” Martin said. “We are better than that, our kids are better than that, and we will never be content with a C.”

Of 42 individual schools in the Terrebonne Parish School District, 33 posted gains for 2011, and 16 achieved their growth target.

LDE performance comparisons between 2008 and 2011 have the Terrebonne Parish School District listed with a growth level of 15.6 percent, to place it at No. 14 in the state.

Overall performance scores for Terrebonne Parish were at a level of 82.9 in 2007 and consistently improved to 97.6 by 2011. This placed the district at No. 25 in the state for performance ranking according to the most recent data available.

Martin contends that even when results are less than desired, each improvement is worth nothing as a step in the right direction.

“This data certainly demonstrated there is significant growth and improvement in our schools as it related to student achievement in Terrebonne Parish,” Martin said.

Holding a commitment to ongoing growth is how Martin described the Terrebonne Parish School District in terms of progress.

He challenges teachers and administrators to accept “nothing less than excellence” in their quest to move beyond any suggestions of current raw statistics.

“Challenges, obstacles, disagreements over the metrics of the letter grade scale, and financial issues will continue,” Martin said. “None will deter [us]. The district will continue to aggressively push for better outcomes of our students here in Terrebonne Parish.”