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LEAP test ordeal is over – but did students rush through the exams? Enrollment is a worry

Directors of McDonogh City Park Academy welcomed two new board members during their monthly meeting, April 17: Brittany Major and Monica Candal.

Major recently moved back to New Orleans from Atlanta and works with the city in economic development. Candal works with Stand for Children, a non-profit, and describes herself as passionate about parental involvement in schooling.

In her school leader’s report, assistant principal Ellen Bankston said a week of LEAP and iLEAP testing had been completed that very day.

“The turnaround is incredible,” said Bankston, the LEAP coordinator, noting that the tests and accompanying booklets had to be immediately returned to state officials because “there have been so many issues with non-secure testing.”

Bankston said the school didn’t lose a booklet and that attendance was good. Only eight students will need to make up tests. Make-up testing was set to begin April 18.

Bankston’s concern was that students were rushing through the test.

“The testing company gives a suggested time of how long it should take the students to take the test,” she said. “Some are finishing before the suggested time. The question is, are they really spending as much time as we would like them to?”

The teachers have no control over how much time a student spends on the test; once the booklets are passed out, they can no longer offer help.

With the end of the school year just around the corner, enrollment for next year has been a concern. Current enrollment stands at 392, nearly double the 200 applications received for next year, and many of those students will have applied to other schools as well.

Adding to the problem, many seventh-graders are leaving the school. Just how many is unclear, because many parents are reluctant to announce that they are pulling out their children. To make up the shortfall, however, the RSD’s newly inaugurated common-application process mans that students from other schools who don’t express a preference for next year can be assigned to McDonogh City Park.

Reports on detention and suspension show that in-school suspension has been a welcome addition to the school’s disciplinary repertoire, Bankston said. In-school suspension allows for meaningful punishment but without the interruption in their education that comes when students are sent home.

Bankston expressed concern, however, that detention numbers are suspiciously low. “It tells me that there are things that aren’t even being referred that we would have given an office detention for,” she said.

That means problems may be festering until suspension is required, rather than being addressed at the detention level.

“If we’re looking at a progressive method of discipline we should be seeing those detentions occurring,” Bankston said.

Financial reports show the school to be in good order. But meeting goals in compliance with a grant from High Performance School Initiative is proving to be a challenge. Failure to meet the goals could cost the school the grant funding as well as its status as a TAP school and the staffing level that it makes possible.

On a positive note, the board gratefully acknowledged a donation from Michael Bagot Sr.

Present at the meeting were board president Mary Kay Parker and board treasurer Jim Nelson as well as members Mike Bagot, Emily Waterfield, Lee Hampton and Laurie Charbonnet. Administrators present in addition to Bankston were principal Christine Mitchell, coordinator of school services Carmelite Lofton and finance director Keeanya Dupre.

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