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Success Prep seeks reasons for drop in kindergarten and first grade test performance

Officials at Success Preparatory Academy are concerned about kindergarten and first grade performance results from this year, they announced at a board meeting Tuesday.

According to a chart showing a yearly comparison of elementary school performance on the school’s interim tests, 2013 kindergarten scores were as many as 17 points below what they were in 2012.

“We have thought long and hard about why scores weren’t where we wanted them to be,” said Lower School Principal Niloy Gangopadhyay.

Students’ scores in English and language arts saw a drop of 17 points from 85 to 68 in the second kindergarten benchmark within the year, while math scores dropped by two points from 77 to 75.

Only in the third benchmark did kindergarten English and language arts scores improve by a point, but the math score still plummeted from 76 points to 67.

First grade results also showed some declining performance scores.

Gangopadhyay said that the reason for the inconsistency could be in execution of class lessons, rather than the teachers’ plans.

Overall, teachers this year have had less experience this year than in the past three years, he added, and a “significant amount” of English language learners were draining the school’s resources.

“We have a lot of students who have emotional problems,” he added. “We need to shore up our behavior interventions – we’re not going about it in the right way.”

One plan that staff suggested is to have three kindergarten classes next year, rather than two. Each teacher would take 20 children, while a fourth teacher would act as a director, teaching the other three teachers and focusing on overall development of the grade.

Right now, there are two classes of 30 kindergarten students, each with two teachers in them.

At the meeting, board treasurer Kathryn Broussard suggested adding another teacher, citing a current surplus in funds.

“We’re operating as a D school,” Broussard reminded staff. “You want us to hold you accountable.”

Gangopadhyay said that the goal for the end of the year was for 85 percent of kids in kindergarten to be at or above grade level.

Upper school principal St. Claire Adriaan said that the third through sixth grade students had done very well while taking their iLEAP and LEAP tests, and that staff had been supportive.

During the meeting, Adriaan mentioned that the past few months had been a “trying time” in the middle school, mostly because of students who were not yet immunized in accordance with federal and state mandates.

Several kids hadn’t gotten their 11-year-old shots, which includes meningitis vaccine, Adriaan said. The principal said that parents were upset when he was forced to send some kids home until their immunizations were complete.

He suggested sending letters home to parents to remind them that immunizations are required.

A report from the development committee showed that some reserve funds would be spent on technology this year. Board members and Gangopadhyay said they were excited to get a new computer lab for students in the library.

The finance committee reported that Success is eligible for a federal School Improvement Grant totaling at least $250,000 each year for three years. The grant would replace the current High Performing Schools Initiative School Improvement Grant, whose grant period ends this year.

Broussard recommended that the 2013-14 budget be given to the board at the May meeting, due to uncertainty around local funding and the SIG grant, as well as some questions about transportation costs and the staffing model for next year.

The 2013-14 budget would be approved in June.

A 2012-13 budget showed a model net income of nearly $32,000.

During the beginning of the meeting, representatives from the Louisiana Department of Education visited the board meeting to explain changes in boards’ renewal extensions and changes in scores for school letter grades.

For an F or a D, the board is eligible for renewal of three years. For a C, it is eligible for a five years renewal, and an A or B enables the board to be renewed for 10 years.

Board members said they thought the school would score better this year because attendance is not factored in.

 “I think we’ll get a renewal of three years,” Adriaan said.

The next meeting will be held on May 15.

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