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Crescent City leaders pore over testing data to assess students’ strengths and needs

School leaders presented Crescent City Schools board members with highly sought interim test data at the board’s February meeting.

And in what’s become a frequent topic of conversation at recent board meetings, the board also discussed the pending takeover of Paul Habans Elementary, an Algiers elementary school the charter management organization will run next year.

The data showed student progress on tests created by school support organization The Achievement Network, from the literacy tracking Strategic Teaching and Evaluation of Progress (STEP) program, and from Fountas and Pinnell, another literacy education program. Schools use these interim tests to track student progress throughout the year and to inform teachers. In past meetings, board members have asked to view this data to determine students’ academic progress.

All students at Harriet Tubman Charter School and Akili Academy, the organization’s two schools, were tested using the STEP and Fountas and Pinnell reading programs. Akili’s second- through fifth-graders and Tubman’s third- through eighth-graders were tested using the Achievement Network’s tests.

As part of the program, school leaders have set reading goals for students to meet. For example, Crescent City would like all kindergartners reading at “step 3” by the end of the year, meaning that they should be able to not only recognize letters and some words, but use groups of words, and make sense of and talk about stories.

According to the STEP tests conducted mid-year, 68 percent of Akili’s kindergarteners, and 70 percent of Tubman’s, performed at a “step 1” or above. That means those students can at least recognize letters and some words, match some spoken and written words, and talk about familiar books.

The Achievement Network’s program compares Tubman and Akili’s results on English and Math tests to that of about 64 schools in Louisiana, and some schools nationally – dubbed “the network.”

In English and math, Tubman’s third through sixth grades performed below the network’s average. Their seventh- and eighth-graders outperformed the network. In math at Akili, second- through fifth-graders performed below the network’s average. But in English, only Akili’s second grade tested below the average. Third-graders scored the average, and fourth- and fifth-graders outperformed the average.

Crescent City’s CEO Kate Mehok reminded board members at the meeting that the interim tests weren’t meant to evaluate teachers, nor to be predictive of kids’ future performance.

“I am hesitant to show you this data because it’s not as nuanced as I would like,” she said while board members reviewed the numbers. “I also know that there’s a reporter in the room,” she reminded everyone. Board members should be hesitant about naming specific grades when referring to tests, she said.

After the meeting, Mehok gave a Lens reporter the data.

Although the tests determine whether kids are on grade level, Mehok said, “the other interesting part of this is that you don’t need to be on grade level to pass the iLEAP” – the state’s high-stakes standardized test.

Students begin a full week of LEAP and iLEAP tests, high-stakes state standardized tests that measure student achievement, on April 8.

“I do believe that the staffs at both schools take this data seriously,” she continued. She wants to be able to show the board some higher numbers, she said, “…but it’s not there.”

Board member Carolyn Chandler, who also serves as head of school at Metairie Park Country Day School, said that interim data that compares groups of students isn’t always useful, given that each school’s students are different. “It’s hard to know how meaningful this is, frankly,” she said. “It’s interesting to look at growth. I think it’s wonderful to use it the way your teachers are using it,” she told Mehok.

In addition to STEP and Achievement Network programs, Tubman students also take the TerraNova, a standardized test produced by CTB/McGraw-Hill given at the end of the year. Last year, Tubman students exceeded performance goals on that test, and made double-digit gains in math.  All Akili students, too, will take the Terranova at the end of this year.

Habans update

Crescent City staffers may also spruce up the campus of Paul Habans Elementary in the coming months, Mehok said. The organization will add Habans to its school portfolio in the 2013-2014 year.

Officials are hiring staff and teachers, CEO Kate Mehok said.

School principal fellow Litouri Smith will assume leadership of the school next year. He’ll replace principal Desmond Harris.

More details about the takeover:

·      Habans students, as well as students at a nearby closing school, Murray Henderson Elementary, will receive first enrollment preference at Habans for the 2013-2014 year.

·      Habans and Henderson teachers were invited to reapply for a position at the new Habans. After they apply, those teachers will automatically get a phone interview, advancing to the next stage of the process, Mehok said. If their initial interviews are successful, Crescent City Schools’ staff will then observe those teachers in the classroom.

·      A February 26th parent night gave parents a chance to learn more about Crescent City.

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