Despite the introduction this year of rigorous new state tests, leaders of New Orleans Charter Science & Math High School hope the strength of their many unique diploma offerings will help them maintain their B performance rating from the state in the fall, they said Thursday.
Thursday was the final day of testing for Sci High students, school leader Chana Benenson reported to the school’s governing board on Thursday evening. While those test scores will not be known until the summer, Benenson told the board she has already begun trying to analyze the likely changes to the school’s performance score.
The state grades high schools equally in four areas, two specifically on testing — the state exams and the ACT college-entrance tests — and two on the success of the senior class, their graduation rates and the relative “strength” of their diplomas.
On the state testing, which are comprised of end-of-course exams and LEAP tests, Benenson said that state officials are already warning educators to expect a decrease at nearly all schools.
“Because it’s a new test, because it’s more rigorous, for many reasons the state has predicted scores go down across the board,” Benenson said.
ACT tests have been a strength for Sci High students in recent years — last year, the school’s average ACT score was 20, the highest of any open enrollment high school in the city, Benenson said. This year, the average may dip by about a point, but the school should earn a similar amount of credit for it in the School Performance Score.
The third category the school will be graded on, the graduation rate, is more complex than simply the number of Sci High seniors graduating, Benenson explained. It is actually known as the “cohort” graduation rate, and it tracks the graduation of students who have ever been at Sci High.
Last year, Sci High had the largest jump in the cohort graduation rate of any school in the city, Benenson said, and this year the number increased slightly again to 88.7 percent.
The final grading category is “strength of diploma,” which measures the additional opportunities that graduates were given by the school. Specifically, that refers to Advanced Placement courses for college credit, dual enrollment courses at local colleges and universities, and job certifications that students can earn, Benenson said.