Caddo Parish Schools
J. Delano Ford, Recovery District head, discusses closing the gap in student performance.
By Lani Duke
Education professionals and concerned citizens recently aired their perspectives in an exploratory forum held by the civic group A Better Shreveport. Widespread dissatisfaction with Shreveport schools seems universal, but the fault may lie in measurement methods rather than in the quality of the education students absorb, some of the professionals say.
Five Caddo Parish schools – Newton Smith 6th Grade Center, Midway Professional Development, Fair Park College Prep, Atkins Technology, and Woodlawn Leadership Academy – performed poorly enough to be placed on the state's academically unacceptable list, having failed to meet certain criteria too many times. But the state failed to provide constructive critiques to help the schools improve, said Brian Salvatore, Louisiana State University chemistry professor.
Midway principal Priscilla Pullen blasted unfair comparisons that distort schools' real progress in raising students' skills. Forty-two of 309 students rose from basic level to mastery level in the past academic year, but averaging student scores over a period of years obscures success. She praised Midway's "solid parent base" and community support.
Similarly, Mia Brooks-Cooper, principal at Atkins, believes "I'm not a be all and end all. We are bringing some children up above the bottom." She sees parents "coming together as a community."
Discussions may "devalue the work that these educators and administrators are doing in our community." They are really working hard to make a difference, according to Dr. Mary Nash-Robinson, then interim superintendent for Caddo Parish Schools.
Since that meeting, J. Delano Ford, the assistant superintendent of the state’s Recovery School District and recently appointed executive director of the Recovery School District in Caddo Parish, and the Caddo Parish school board have reached a two-year partnership agreement to turnaround failing Caddo schools beginning this December. It calls for opening all positions at Atkins, Midway, Woodlawn, and Fair Park for either new or rehired personnel as well as developing different management strategies at these sites. Newton Smith will close, as will Linear Leadership Academy. Other failing schools – Caddo Middle Career Technology, Lakeshore Elementary, Queensboro Elementary, Werner Park Elementary, and Mooretown Elementary Professional Development Center -- will also work toward new educational requirements.