Demographics:

Rapides Parish School Board in Louisiana serves more than 24,000 students. The district has 47 buildings and 70 percent of its students are economically disadvantaged.

Biggest challenge:

Several schools in the district had been identified by the state as failing and the state needed to see progress. With high poverty and high mobility, finding solutions to address the needs of this community required out-of-the-box thinking, good data, and community support.

Solution:

Rapides Parish identified 12 buildings and roughly 10,000 students that were in a high-mobility, high economically disadvantaged area. Each move was causing school disruption.

The Parish broadened the attendance zones, made each building grade-specific to reduce disruption and mobility, and created community zones. Within each zone, there is one building for kindergarten, one for grades 1-3, one for grades 4-5, one for 6th, one for grades 7-8, and high school remained the same.

Three community zones were created in a part of the overall district that had low performance and high mobility. They used GuideK12 geovisual analytic software to create scenarios and maps and share the zones with the community so they could visualize the proposals and understand the dynamic changes.

How we reduced mobility and improved outcomes in low-performing schools

“We listened very carefully and found many unexpected wins as the plan unfolded. For example, families moving schools a lot require different uniforms, which is hard for families on a tight budget. These new zones eliminated the need for new uniforms because the students stayed in the same building so the uniforms stay the same,” says Cari Jeansonne, a program analyst for the district.

Lessons learned:

  • Getting the teacher’s support was critical.
  • Community support and communication was extremely important. The district had many meetings, listened to a lot of viewpoints, created visuals (maps, graphs, charts), and responded to input.
  • The community zones created a teacher community, support, and a network for the teachers.
  • Learning to work with the data changed everything. “GuideK12 made it possible to analyze student populations, draw maps, draw natural logical boundaries, and
    communicate to stakeholders. Without a visual representation of the proposed
    changes it wouldn’t have happened,” says Luke Purdy, technology director.
  • With multiple teachers teaching the same grade in a building, it created more consistency and opportunity for new ideas.
  • Every move didn’t require new uniforms for highly mobile families, saving money.
  • The community liked that the students stayed together during their school years and that it would build stronger sense of community.
  • The zone format reduced the disruption from mobility, which increases class consistency and ultimately outcomes.

Next steps:

At the end of this school year, the district will assess performance, tweak, and continue to improve the process. Initial feedback has been very positive.

Next week:

Come back and see how a district turned around its reading program.

About the Author:

Ellen Ullman is editorial director, content services, for eSchool Media.


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