State releases assessment scores for scholarship students

By Peter Finney Jr. Clarion Herald

State scholarship students in six Catholic schools have fallen below the state’s educational proficiency benchmarks, Catholic Schools superintendent Dr. RaeNell Houston said Nov. 7.

As a consequence, those schools will be unable to offer state scholarships to new students in the 2020-21 academic year, although current state scholarship students in those schools will not be affected and can remain at their school on scholarship.

The elementary schools where scholarship students fell below the state’s “Scholarship Cohort Index” (SCI) are Good Shepherd Nativity School, New Orleans; Our Lady of Perpetual Help School, Kenner; Our Lady of Prompt Succor School, Westwego; Resurrection of Our Lord School, New Orleans; St. Rita School, New Orleans; and the elementary division of St. Mary’s Academy, New Orleans.

Other scores improve

Scholarship students in three other Catholic schools that were sanctioned for low SCI scores in the 2017-18 academic year improved in 2018-19 and are no longer sanctioned by the state: St. Augustine High School, St. Stephen Elementary School and St. Katharine Drexel Preparatory School.

“I’m grateful that we’ve had some schools improve enough to come off sanctions,” Houston said. “Now, efforts are being made to work more intensively with the other schools to help them adopt and implement curriculum that aligns with the state assessment. We are planning a series of professional development workshops and curriculum support.”

Those new efforts include a “blended learning” initiative, being piloted by nine elementary schools. Coordinator Kasey Webb with the Office of Catholic Schools said the program uses “high-quality online instruction and high-quality teacher instruction to meet the needs of the students” in the subject of English and language arts.

“We’re leveraging technology to help teachers teach in smaller groups because we know that it’s good for kids to learn with teachers in smaller groups,” Webb said. “The kids can get better feedback from the teacher. The teacher can target that group’s specific needs when they are planning their lessons. And we’re also using the technology to help us differentiate individual student’s needs.”

Also, associate superintendent Ingrid Fields is leading a “Eureka Math” math initiative with 10 elementary schools, most of them state scholarship schools, to help students in grades kindergarten through third improve their mastery of math.

“We want to make sure we are teaching to the curriculum that is aligned with the state assessment,” Fields said.

About 3,000 children attend Catholic schools through the state scholarship program, and another 400 attend pre-K4 through a separate early childhood development program. There are about 700 students who attend Catholic school through a tuition program funded by tax credits.

“There are so many other metrics by which you can measure success,” Houston said. “Parents overwhelmingly feel their kids are safer in Catholic schools. They feel confident in the faith-based education that their children are receiving, as well as their ability to participate in extracurriculars and clubs, which is part of the puzzle of educating the whole child.”

Peter Finney Jr. can be reached at pfinney@clarionherald.org.

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