LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - The Calcasieu Parish School Board hired Dr. Marcus Jackson last year as R3 Zone Director to oversee failing schools and improve their ratings.
Schools are automatically added to the R3 Zone list when they have three consecutive years of receiving a D or F grade from the Louisiana Department of Education. There are currently 13 schools in Calcasieu listed as R3 Zone schools: Brentwood Elementary School, College Oaks Elementary School, Combre Fondel Elementary School, Fairview Elementary School, J.D. Clifton Elementary School, J.J. Johnson Elementary School, LaGrange High School, Oak Park Middle School, Pearl Watson Elementary School, Ralph Wilson Elementary School, Ray D. Molo Middle School, T.H. Watkins Elementary School and Washington/Marion Magnet High School.
Jackson says he would sum up his first year at R3 Zone Director as ‘a culture of collaboration’. Schools are automatically added to the R3 Zone list when they have three consecutive years of receiving a D or F grade from the Louisiana Department of Education.
“We have a phenomenal group of educators from the Superintendent, even those with the Louisiana Department of Education on down involved in this process,” Jackson said. “Through that culture of collaboration, there were two major buckets. Those two major buckets are the Tier 1 curriculum. It was very important that in these zone schools that we were speaking the same language. We have a 40% transient rate. That means we have 40% of our students moving at least two to three times a year from school to school. Therefore it is imperative that we are speaking the same academic language. If you go on to any of these schools K through 12 you are going to see the same performance-based objectives, the vocabulary, the set-up is pretty much the same and that is powerful. Second, we have the TAP process, the Teacher Advancement Process.That was a support system set up for principals and teachers to provide them a plethora of support in regards to lifting this heavy lift that we have to do which is student achievement. That worked great. We had phenomenal numbers. We had between a 2 and 22% increase in ELA and mathematics. Our special ed. department is actually top in the state of Louisiana in regards to their growth but we are definitely moving in the right direction. We are nowhere near where we want to be, but we are nowhere where we were a year ago.”
Jackson says the TAP process and Tier 1 curriculum were written into a grant before he was hired by CPSB, but they have seen positive feedback from both programs.
“We saw gains in each of the 13 schools," Jackson said. "We have a new school added, Oak Park Elementary School, and even they saw gains. We started working with them in January because we knew they were coming on board in the fall and we didn’t want them to be behind.
Jackson said his first year was focused on observation, making over 100 walk-throughs in R3 Zone schools.
“The only new implementation was the social-emotional curriculum,” Jackson said. “In addition to that, we did some heavy training with our principals. They actually went to Harvard University over the summer to actually learn specific skills, fine tuning their skills for turning around low performing schools.”
Jackson describes the social-emotional curriculum as a way for students to learn how to deal with their feelings.
“Conflict-resolution, how to apologize, how to forgive,” Jackson said. “We actually implemented that in our schools and saw a 40% decrease in suspensions. Students became kinder to one another, they knew how to forgive one another, and that was something we implemented and want to continue to do. We are rolling this out additionally in our middle schools and our high schools this year. We started out with our elementary schools.”
Jackson says he is excited for the 2019-2020 school year.
“The teachers and the principals have a better understanding of the curriculum,” Jackson said. “All of our principals returned. 100% of our instructional leaders returned. In addition to that, 90% of the staff at the zone schools returned. So we are ready.”
He says through the TAP process, zone schools will have master teachers and mentor teachers.
“We are designing and developing a co-teaching model that is going to put our master teachers, some of the top educators in this Parish, are actually going to be teaching this year as opposed to last year, where they were teaching the teachers the curriculum. This year, not only are they teaching the teachers the curriculum, but we are strategically placing them in front of some of our most needed students every day. So I can emphatically state that every child in these zone schools will be receiving a high quality, world class education from the best teachers every single day in ELA [English Language Arts] and mathematics.”
Jaskson says he has spoken to parents of students who attend R3 schools and says they should want to work more with the school.
“There is absolutely no way a parent, grandparent or guardian should not be communicating with the school,” Jackson said. "Everyone has a cell phone. We live in an industrialized city, so sometimes work hours may not allow that parent to come into the school. However they can text, they can get video of what’s going on in the classroom. That is something we are launching. We are streaming a lot of lessons where parents can actually get on their cell phones and watch lessons being taught. If their kids don’t understand it, they can learn with their child in real time. Just partner with your child’s teacher. Partner with your child’s principal.
Another thing Jackson says he is implementing this school year is more community involvement, such as the Back to School Bash, which was held July 20 at the Civic Center. Calcasieu Parish students were able to get the supplies they needed for the school year like free backpacks, school supplies and uniforms. The event was open to students and their families across the Parish, but highlighted the schools in the R3 Zone, according to Jackson. He said the event helped remove stress from parents and students before class was back in session.
“We had over 2,000 people at our Back to School Bash,” Jackson said. “I had about over $10,000 in donations for school supplies, bags, popcorn, and everything to run the Back to School Bash. The mayor was involved, the plants were involved, the banks were involved, everyone was involved. This year we have more mentoring programs than ever. Our community, our churches are joining together with the schools to have a totally community collaborative effort. We had it last year, that cultural collaboration at the school level, but now it’s spreading around in the community. Once the community joins with the school, oh you have something powerful and I am excited about year two.”
Another thing Jackson is launching is literacy initiative.
“We will have representatives from our Partners in Education that will actually be coming into the schools reading to our kids,” Jackson said. “The local churches will be partnering with the schools will actually be coming in doing some mentoring with our students as well. What that does is, once students see that people outside of the school care about them and love them and are invested in their education, their confidence level goes up. Once their confidence level goes up, the attendance level goes up and their student achievement level goes up as well. So we have a ton of things planned for this year like LaGrange and Washington/Marion homecoming. We are going to have events there for the elementary kids who did well on the state assessment. Our literacy initiative, a need to read campaign is about to launched at the Zone schools across Calcasieu Parish. In addition to that we are going to have math and science night in the fall and a ‘do your best on a test’ rally scheduled for the spring for all Zone schools, so we are excited to bring the community and the schools together.”
For the 2018-2019 school year, Jackson says those grades come out in October.
“We are expecting the letter grades to go up substantially,” Jackson said “Some schools are possibly going to move from a D to a B. Washington/Marion and LaGrange’s graduation rates went up tremendously. In addition, our middle schools remained kind of stagnant, but several of our elementary schools could move. You have to be at a C at least a minimum of two years. So we got this year and next year to ensure that our schools are at that C level and we are definitely moving towards that.”
There are currently 13 schools on the list, up from last year; Oak Park Elementary was added to the list for this school year.