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School report cards call for celebration, improvement

Dr. Anthony Muttillo does not consider Leesville a “test-prep” kind of school. He never wants Leesville to focus solely on standardized tests or even feel like it has to be an area of focus. And yet Thursday last week, Muttillo, and many others, officially saw the grade on Leesville’s school report card: an ‘A,’ unique to four large traditional high schools in the district and based nearly 80% on achievement on standardized tests.

For Muttillo, the answer is clear.

“We, [at Leesville,] really do try to incorporate projects, incorporate real-world experiences, and I think what students are just continuing to learn and continuing to grow that the standardized tests take care of themselves,” said Muttillo.

The state released the controversial school report cards last Thursday, grading schools A-F based on achievement and growth. Regardless of how difficult it is to accurately assess a school using a scale of five letters, the achievement portion assesses the percent of students who successfully complete Math III, the four-year graduation rate and scores on the ACT, ACT WorkKeys and EOCs–meaning a large portion of a school’s grade stems from three tests–Math I, Biology and English II EOCs–taken before high school or in ninth and tenth grade. In other words, a large portion of the score measures a small portion of what a school may do overall.

The graduation rate, in contrast, assesses a school far more comprehensively, according to Muttillo. Leesville’s graduation rate of 88% has gone up considerably over the past few years, and despite the district’s newly set goal of 95%, Muttillo believes Leesville has come a long way.

“I like focusing on the graduation rate because that takes every single teacher, every single class, every single student… [The] graduation rate encompasses a lot more than, obviously, the proficiency rating does,” Muttillo said.

While Leesville’s overall ‘A’ is obviously a huge accomplishment, Muttillo looks toward other parts of the report–specifically the 100% growth. In fact, Muttillo considers the perfect growth score, though not entirely rare, the most important despite the overall grade’s massive attention.

“We have students who come in at all different levels academically–they’re all at different points–and we want each student to grow and get better, and the growth score does the best job, [although] I wouldn’t say it does a perfect job, of capturing that,” Muttillo said.

But the growth score is only worth 20% of the overall proficiency score.

“[The report card] is accurate in terms of what it’s representing, but obviously not of everything that goes on here at Leesville,” said Muttillo.

Trey Ferguson views the report card similarly to Muttillo–Ferguson’s Math III students make up a small part of the overall score and an even smaller part of the student body.

“I [think] it’s very interesting that they’re grading schools in general, grading schools based off of students’ [performance in] Math III, for one… If you think about statistics, that’s a very small, insignificant sample of students based off of an entire school’s population,” said Ferguson.

Even so, Muttillo points to both students and teachers for their performance, praising teachers for their work preparing students for exams and students for actually performing on the tests.

“It goes back to… the students because [they’re] the ones performing on those tests. But also it’s the teachers–we have some really good teachers here, and they do a good job of getting [students] ready for the exams [they] have to take. I think we also do a good job of overall educating students, challenging them, getting them ready for college,” said Muttillo.


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