State names East Feliciana schools to most improved list

CLINTON, LA (WAFB) - The East Feliciana Parish school district is one that's usually at the bottom of the list. But this year, the district ranks near the top. The superintendent says they're not where they need to be, but they're making progress.

"We are headed in the right direction," said Dr. Henderson Lewis.

When Dr. Henderson Lewis came to East Feliciana, he made a lot of changes. He says he even lost some employees, but now he says he has the results he was looking for.

"For sixth grade mathematics in our district, we were eight points above the state," Dr. Lewis said, looking over documents from the state department of education. With one year under his belt as superintendent, the East Feliciana school system has been named the second most improved in the state when it comes to student gains on those high stakes tests.

Last school year, East Feliciana tied for 66th, based on the change in students scoring basic and above from 2011 to 2012. But from last year to this year they are tied with Iberville Parish for second place.

Lewis says one thing they did differently this year is testing students every night weeks. He says those benchmark tests allowed them to see which students were understanding the skills they needed in various subjects. He says those tests mirrored the iLEAP and LEAP test and gave teachers a better idea of which students needed extra attention. Those students who were not grasping the needed concepts had intervention plans written based on their needs.

Megan Phillips is the principal at Jackson Elementary School, a school the state labeled an F school. Phillips says this year, they had a 13% increase in proficiency.

"We certainly had way more students at mastery and advance than we had before," Phillips said.

She says in addition to the testing they also used a literacy program called Read 180 to boost achievement. The program, funded by a state literacy grant, formed individual instruction for each student.

Now that school is out, Dr. Lewis is hoping the summer brain drain doesn't grab hold of the students. That's one reason he's pushing a summer school camp for middle schoolers.

"At our middle school we struggled with our scores this year. We're pushing to get our seventh graders to participate in camp because they'll be eighth graders next year and they were deficient in many areas," Lewis said.