State legislation was passed last year that will change the rating system from stars to letter grades. Schools that meet their growth target will earn a plus sign after their letter grade. However, if a school declines from one year to the next, the letter grade will be followed by a minus sign.
The letter grades will go into effect this school year, which means schools will receive their first letter grades in October 2011, when School Performance Scores are released.
"I think the letter grades will have a negative effect rather than a positive," said Jackie Sharp, assistant superintendent of Webster Parish Schools. "The superintendent association made a suggestion that if the schools achieved their growth targets but still were not at the level they were supposed to be, that the school should still be awarded with a plus.
"However, the state in their final rule made it so that it seems more punitive and essentially demoralizing," she continued. "It's kind of hard to get excited about a school if the score is a C- or a D."
Sharp said she wished there were more factors than standardized testing, attendance and the graduation index in high schools.
"I know it would be impossible to measure every factor of schools, but this seems to be an artificial measure that doesn't always tell the whole story," Sharp said.
Reconfiguration of Webster Parish schools will affect some schools' report cards.
"Schools that are involved in consolidating will have to have a new baseline score," Sharp said. "So next year those schools will not have a report card, because there will be nothing to compare. Those schools will have to set a base line score and then will be given a growth target for the newly-configured school."
Schools that fall into that category will receive their first report card and baseline study results after the completion of the 2011/2012 school year.
The schools that are not being reconfigured, such as Brown, Browning, Minden High, Webster Junior High, Lakeside and Central, will continue to receive report cards.
"Throughout this whole process we have felt like we have the potential to make improvements in our schools," said Sharp. "Now that we are combining grade levels, and have more classes in a grade, we will be able to offer some enrichment classes for our upper performing students at the Minden schools and possibly others. Maybe being able to offer more enrichment lessons to more students will result in more students scoring advanced and mastery on the test."
Sharp also recognizes helping students who are struggling academically.
"For our students who are kind of in between, who have been promoted to the next grade level but have not fully mastered everything at the previous grade level, we will be able to provide transition classes," she said. "In those transition classes we will be teaching in a little bit different manner and not use the exact same strategies we use in a larger class.
"The class will be smaller and offer different teaching strategies," Sharp continued. "So we feel like we can take those students and move them more easily than we can in a larger class, because we can target their specific weaknesses and work with them in smaller groups."
There are programs currently in place for struggling students, but Sharp feels the reconfiguration of schools can improve those programs.
"We have been working with them, but in a smaller way," she said. "We have to pull them out of their regular classroom and can only give them about 30 minutes of remediation in reading and math. So we feel like we have the potential to improve."
Sharp feels improvements will be found not only in the elementary grades but also in upper grades.
"For our high schools, especially in the northern end of the parish with the new high school in Springhill, we will be able to offer more courses, more options and more opportunity," She said. "I feel all of this has to have a positive effect."