Download / Published Sep 28, 2016

What Are the Best Public Schools in Jefferson Parish?

Back in May, we published adjusted letter grades for public K-8 schools in Orleans Parish. They were based on a combination of the state’s traditional letter grades and each school’s success at growing students over the course of the 2014-15 school year.

Today, we’re publishing adjusted grades for Jefferson Parish’s schools using the same approach.* The goal here is to think about school quality the way most families think about it. They don’t just want a school where students are doing well; they want a school where students do better the longer they attend the school. They want a school that accelerates learning rather than keeping students on the same path they were already traveling when they got there. That’s why our ratings put a greater emphasis on how much schools appear to help students grow, not just how many students reach a particular proficiency level.

When it comes to growth, not all schools are created equal. Some schools have high-performing students but they don’t grow them too much. Other schools have lower-performing students but they grow them quite a bit, helping them to catch up to their peers elsewhere. Still other schools have high performance and high growth, which is best of all.

Consider Kenner Discovery Health Sciences Academy. It received an A grade from the state for 2014-15 based on its high test pass rates. But growth at the school was less than expected given the profile of its students. When we factored growth into the school’s performance, we saw its grade lowered to a B. Not bad, but definitely a drop.

On the other hand, there is Ella Dolhonde. It received a B from the state. But students at Ella Dolhonde showed much higher growth than their peers at Kenner Discovery Health Sciences. That growth pushed Ella Dolhonde to an A grade through our formula. It is a school with a higher population of low income students that did a great job generating academic progress.

A number of schools – 25 out of 69 – saw their letter grades go up or down one spot using EdNavigator’s approach. We did not see any schools move more than one letter grade in either direction.

Here are a few quick observations:

  • The top performing school remained the same even with the consideration of student growth: Congrats to the Patrick F. Taylor Science & Technology Academy.
  • Seven of the eight top performing schools were magnet schools that have a higher bar for admission. The lone exception? Marie B. Riviere Elementary School, which came out with the third-highest score. Its student growth was very high.
  • Most low-performing schools under the state’s criteria remained low-performing when we included growth. One small exception was Miller Wall Elementary, which saw its grade improve from an F to a D. It is still a low grade, but may indicate a school headed in the right direction.

New test results for the 2015-16 school year were released recently. We hope to update our letter grades for Orleans and Jefferson Parish soon.

In an upcoming post, we’ll take a look at which schools in the two parishes are doing a particularly good job with students from low-income families – and which ones are not.

* Here is some detail on how we calculate the grades. Our approach was pretty simple. We took the original School Performance Score (SPS) from the state, which is used to determine a school’s official letter grade, and added its growth score for math and reading.

What’s a “growth score”? In a nutshell, each student gets a projected score for the state math and reading test. The projection estimates how the student is expected to perform based on a host of information including how the student has fared in the past and how much similar students typically grow over the course of a year. By looking at how often students in a given school meet or exceed their projected growth, the state arrives at a composite picture of growth. In some schools, 60 percent of students might meet/exceed their target. In another, it might be just 40.

Imagine a school whose official SPS is 80.0. That school would have received a letter grade of C from the state. But that school had 65 percent of students meet/exceed their growth target for math and 70 percent meet/exceed in English Language Arts. We added those three numbers together:

80.0 + 65 + 70 = 215.0

The school’s “adjusted” SPS is 215.0. We did the same calculation for each school, then re-distributed the letter grades based on the new performance scores and a revised scale. We kept the same number of A’s, B’s, C’s, D’s, and F’s. Six schools earned A grades from the state, for example, so we also assigned six A grades in our adjusted model.