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How failing schools made the grade : Caddo Parish - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

How failing schools made the grade : Caddo Parish

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It is a stigma no school wants to have, the stigma surrounding being called a failure. It's the stigma that teachers don't care and students don't want to learn; it's the stigma that comes with being on the state's "Academically Unacceptable " list.

For years that stigma has plagued nearly two dozen Caddo Parish Schools.

"I will be honest with you, this was not a school people wanted to send their kids to," according to Green Oaks Performing Arts School Principal Marvin Alexander.

Green Oaks was one of the worst performing high schools in the state when Alexander took over five years ago and just as the 2013 - 2014 school year was set to start word came that Green Oaks was no longer on the list .

Not only did Green Oaks come off the list , so did nine other schools.

Booker T. Washington New Technology High School,

Sunset Acres Elementary,

Huntington High School,

Turner Elementary/6th Grade Academy,

Cherokee Park Elementary ,

Caddo Heights Math/Science Elementary,

Creswell Elementary,

E. B. Williams Stoner Hill Elementary

Barret Paideia Academy.

Most of the schools were up for state takeover. When the state takes a school they move the school into the Recovery School District. Linwood Public Charter and Linear are currently the only schools in Caddo that are part of the RSD. The state took those schools from Caddo after years of academic failure.

"We danced for joy!," says Barret Paideia Academy teacher Raquel Fuggins. Fuggins has been at the school for five years.

"I took the job knowing the state was looking to take over the school. I took the job knowing I would have people from the state coming into my classroom to see if my teaching was effective."

Fuggins, along with teacher Patricia Jordan, credits steady, strong leadership, professional development and more parent involvement last year than ever before as three key things that help them come off the list.

"We went door to door in the neighborhood inviting parents to come to school," says Jordan.

Education Reporter Eric James asked Jordan what they did to get parents involved.

Question (James) : So you did more reaching out?

Answer ( Jordan) : A lot of reaching. A lot of reaching.

Question ( James) : Why do think parents came?

Answer ( Jordan : They came because we took the fear away. A lot of parents don't want to come to a school because they don't know what to ask or maybe don't know how to help their kids with homework. So we had to let them know that it was ok, that not only would we help their child we would help them.

Question ( James) : So what was the outcome?

Answer ( Jordan) : Oh My God! The kids started to flourish. Once they saw that their parents cared about their education they wanted to make them proud and they wanted to make us (teachers) proud.

While going door to door worked for Barret, requiring parents to pick up their child's report card made a big difference at Creswell Elementary.

"Once we got them in the school we were able to build relationships with our parents. They were no longer afraid to come to the school. They also realized that when their children saw them at the school that it helped their kids," said Tracey Harris.

Creswell has a one of the largest population of ESL students. Those are students whose native language is not English.

Harris says some of the students come to Creswell not knowing any English, yet those students scores are factored into a schools overall ranking.

"We started having some of our students who speak both Spanish and English well aid us in teaching the students who speak no English," says Harris.

Along with hard work by the teachers at each of these 10 schools that came off the list their methods have been working.

Each school has figured out what works for their school, from using a teaching method called Kagan, to having residents surrounding the community volunteer.

" One day a lady stopped by our school and said they wanted to help. She was from a church around the corner. That was three years ago and they do so much for our school," says Sunset Acres Elementary Principal Stacey Jamison.

"Someone from the church is here at the school almost every day and when these kids see that other people care about them, people that don't even know them care about them, it makes a world of difference," says Jamison.

Jamison says the members of the Church don't want any recognition for the work they have done, work that includes after school tutoring for students, as well as support for the teachers.

"I had teachers that left this school. They couldn't handle the challenges that many of the students have, but the additional community support has helped create an environment in which teachers not only want to stay at the school but an environment that promotes learning at its best because teachers can be at their best because someone is there helping them to be their best," Jamison told James.

Those are just a few of the reasons why these schools were able to come off the list. The state of Louisiana also changed how they grade schools, removing several factors, like the attendance of a student. The overall score was also lowered from 200 to 150.

While some say the change in score was the real factor that allowed these schools to come off the list, the truth is that each of the ten schools were on the verge of coming out of this status without the change. For example, Booker T. Washington High School narrowly missed coming off the list in 2012.

But no matter how the schools came off the list, it has made a world of difference in the perception of these schools.

"This is a good school now, " says Green Oaks Principal Marvin Alexander "… and it has been a good school for a few years. Now people know we are a good school."

Question ( James): What do you want people to understand about Green Oaks?

Answer ( Alexander) : I need people to know that I have hard working teachers, that I have great students, that I do not have discipline problems as people think we have because we are off MLK. I am proud of my staff and I am proud of my students. And I challenge anyone who wants to know more about Green Oaks and what we are doing here to come to this campus and see for themselves and they will be amazed.

It is the very sentiment echoed by each of the principals who have schools that are no longer on the list.

"The goal now is to stay off the list. So we will be working harder than before because people are looking at us even closer now. The community wants to see if we will continue to succeed and we are ready for them to look and we are ready to let them know we will not fail again," said Marvin.

Currently the district has 15 schools still on the list.

Atkins Elementary,

Fair Park, Caddo Middle Career and Technology,

Lakeshore,

Mooretown,

Queensborough,

Werner Park ,

Westwood,

Woodlawn,

Midway,

Newton Smith,

Alexander (Alternative School),

Shreveport Job Corps (Alternative School),

Academic Recovery Ombudsman (Alternative School),

and Community Ombudsman (Alternative School)

Three of the schools were added to the list this school year.

To see how other schools came off the list be sure to tune in starting Wednesday morning at 6am. We will profile the schools that came off the list.

This Wednesday Sept 4th: Barret Paideia Academy

Thursday Sept 5th: E. B. Williams Stoner Hill Elementary

Friday Sept 6th : Turner Elementary/6th Grade Academy

Sunday Sept 8th :Booker T. Washington New Technology High School,

Monday Sept 9th : Sunset Acres Elementary,

Tuesday Sept 10th :Huntington High School,

Wed Sept 11th :Turner Elementary/6th Grade Academy,

Thursday Sept 12thCherokee Park Elementary,

Friday Sept 13th Caddo Heights Math/Science Elementary,

Sunday Sept 15th : Creswell Elementary

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