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Sci High leaders grapple with new school grading formula

With the state changing its formula for how it grades schools, teachers and administrators at New Orleans Charter Science and Math High School taking a hard look at what and how students learn.

The Advocates for Science and Math Education board of directors also heard from two instructors on these changes at its Jan. 17 meeting.

Co-Principal Claire Jecklin identified both pros and cons within the new criteria, calling the newly mandated ACT test “the toughest road ahead.”

Schools will only receive points for ACT scores of 18 or above. Jecklin said that while the school put a heavy focus on the test beginning last year, Sci High students generally score at, or just below an 18.

Alongside ACT scores, schools will also now be measured by a four-year graduation rate, and end-of-course test scores.

More than half of Sci High students are enrolled in AP courses. It is unclear however if schools will continue to receive points for students enrolled in these college prep courses.

In switching from the Graduation Exit Exam, to strictly the end-of-course test, U.S. History instructor Allon Brann describes the new material as more specific, yet still calls the state curriculum “very impoverished.”

When compared with either test’s material, Brann explained that Sci High’s AP class standards are the most rigorous, cover more specific content, and ask more analytical questions.

Brann said another major problem with the state’s new measurement tool is that students only need to pass U.S. History or Biology, not both.

Biology instructor DJ Johnson echoed Brann’s description of end-of-course requirements also calling them more specific than the current exit exam, yet, he said, lacking depth.

Concerning the ACT, Johnson worries that students will struggle with the large vocabulary used in the science portion.

“Literacy can really hold a student back even if they are good at science,” Johnson said. “The questions sometimes border on reading comprehension over anything else.”

Co-principals Claire Jecklin and Chana Benenson describe properly tracking dropout rates as another component in the ongoing struggle with the state concerning school data.

Students who move schools or out of state without informing Sci High, incarcerated students, and even a deceased student were all examples given of incorrectly qualified dropouts that the principals are working to disprove.

Sci High currently has a B rating from the state with a school performance score of 115.7.

The Advocates for Science and Math Education will hold its next board meeting on Feb. 21 at 4:30 p.m.

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