Thursday, April 18, 2024

Study ranks Louisiana public schools near the bottom nationally in both quality and safety

by BIZ Magazine

By Victor Skinner | The Center Square contributor

A new ranking of public school systems shows Louisiana ranks 49th out of all states and the District of Columbia.

The personal finance website WalletHub used 32 metrics to analyze public school systems across the country and devised a score out of 100, then ranked the states and District of Columbia based on scores.

The methodology focused on quality and safety, with quality comprising 80% of the score and safety factoring in for 20%.

For quality, researchers looked at the number of schools in the “Top 700 Best U.S. Schools” by U.S. News & World Report, Blue Ribbon Schools per capita, high school graduation rates for low-income students, math and reading test scores, share of high schoolers who completed ACTs or SATs, the results of those placement tests, student-teacher ratios, and share of licensed and certified teachers.

With safety, the study considered whether schools have a digital learning plan, state statute on out of school access to instructional materials, threatened and injured high school students, parental opinion on school safety, access to illegal drugs, school shootings, laws regarding school resource officers, traffic statistics near schools, bullying and other factors.

Louisiana ultimately ranked 49th for quality and 40th for safety with an overall score of 34.09, ahead of only Alaska and New Mexico. The Bayou State was ranked 49th overall.

A breakdown of the metrics shows Louisiana ranked 47th for dropout rate, tied with West Virginia for 48th in math scores, 47th for reading scores, tied with five states for 47th for median ACT score, and tied two other states for 43rd in percentage of threatened or injured high school students.

Louisiana’s percentage of threatened or injured high school students was three times higher than the safest state, Massachusetts, according to WalletHub.

Massachusetts also topped the list for the best overall public school system in the U.S.

The Louisiana Department of Education’s most recent district performance scores for 2021 show school quality varies widely throughout the state. The LDE was given a waiver as were many other states from federal performance standards due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The top district performance scores came from the West Feliciana Parish with a 95.7, followed by the Zachary Community School District with a 93.3, Central Community School District at 91.9, Ascension Parish with a 91, and Livingston Parish at 90.2.

Districts with the lowest scores include the Recovery School District in Baton Rouge with a score of 45.5, City of Baker School District at 48.2, Madison Parish at 49.7, City of Bogalusa School District at 52.5, and East Carroll Parish at 53.

While many Louisiana districts showed declines in scores between 2019 and 2021, some of both the best and worst districts improved during the pandemic.

West Feliciana Parish schools increased performance from a 90.2 score in 2019, as did the Central Community School District, which was at 90.4 pre-pandemic. Livingston Parish schools also improved from a 2019 score of 88.5.

The City of Bogalusa School District bumped its score up by 0.1, as well, from 52.4 in 2019.

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