May 26, 2010 4:02 PM by Melissa Canone

Department of Ed. Announces Some Growth in Test Scores

Press Release: Following historic gains in 2009, today Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) officials announced a second straight year of growth in the percentage of students scoring Basic and above for all grades and subjects tested on the state's LEAP, GEE and iLEAP assessments. While this year's increase of one percentage point -- from 64 percent in 2009 to 65 percent in 2010 -- is modest compared to last year's four point boost, the successive 2009 and 2010 gains are notable considering that for the three previous years the measurement of student achievement grew in total by only one percentage point, from 59 percent in 2006, to 60 percent in 2007 and 2008.

"From a historical context, the gains we made in the last two years represent real progress for our students in Louisiana. It is a tribute to the hard work of our educators, policy makers and leaders," State Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek said. "Our districts and schools didn't let up, and the steady gains posted this year are evidence of their effort and success. In particular, the results for our high schools are very promising. There are clearly some areas where we did not grow or we fell back. We're already studying these with the aim of providing targeted improvement where it is needed. Clearly, we must have better results, but the overall improvements we're seeing in our test scores this year underscore Louisiana's continuous progress and reaffirm our direction."

Board of Elementary and Secondary Education President Keith Guice said he is also encouraged by the results released today.

"Overall, today's report is positive news, and I want to thank our students, teachers and the education community as a whole for their hard work," Guice said. "As we continue to improve, the bar is continually being raised. But I'm so proud of the success and determination of our school communities."

Each year, students in 4th and 8th grade participate in the high stakes LEAP test, which determines whether they will be required to attend summer school or be retained. Students in 3th, 5th, 6th, 7th and 9th grades take the state's iLEAP test, which is designed to measure student progress but does not determine whether they will be retained in their current grade. High school students in 10th and 11th grades take Louisiana's Graduate Exit Examination, or GEE, which they must pass at some point in their high school career to earn a standard diploma.

An analysis of the GEE results indicates a strong showing by 10th and 11th graders. The number of 10th grade students scoring Basic and above in English Language Arts (ELA) improved by three percentage points, from 62 to 65 perce nt. And while this measurement remained constant for math and science, the number of 11th grade students earning Basic and above in social studies grew by five percentage points from last year to this year.

Even more notable, however, are the increases in the percentage of 10th graders performing at the highest levels of Mastery or Advanced. In math, there was a five point gain (from 25 to 30 percent); and in ELA, there was a four-point gain (from 13 to 17 percent). This means nearly one out of every three of Louisiana's 10thgraders is performing at the highest achievement levels for math, while one in five of our 10th graders is at the highest levels for ELA. In fact, in three of the four subjects tested, ELA, mathematics and social studies, the percentage of students earning Advanced or Mastery grew from 2009-2010.

The 2010 outcomes for the state's 4th and 8th grade LEAP tests are more var ied. The number of 4th graders earning Basic and above in math increased by 4 percentage points, from 65 to 69 percent. And the percentage of 8th grade students earning Basic and above in math held steady at 59 percent from last year to this year. However, student performance on the ELA portion of LEAP declined; the percentage of 4th grade students at Basic and above dropped by four points, from 72 in 2009 to 68 percent in 2010, while the percentage of 8th grade students at Basic and above fell by one percentage point.

State education leaders say the fluctuation in ELA scores reinforces the need to focus resources on statewide literacy initiatives. As a case in point, they point to GEE results over the last two years and Louisiana's High School Redesign initiative, which was launched in 2005. Collectively over the last two years, student proficiency rates for GEE grew by 7 points in ELA, 8 points in math, 5 points in science and 5 points in social studies.

"Louisiana is focused first and foremost on improving graduation rates, and we've set an ambitious goal to achieve this important task," Pastorek said. "And while two years is certainly not enough data to draw any definite conclusions, these improvements suggest our ongoing efforts to improve our high schools are contributing to the success of our students, especially considering the growing number of students performing at the highest levels. Our aim is to continue providing our schools with adequate resources and support around our literacy initiative, and if we do so we will see the ELA scores for our elementary and middle school students improve in the same way."

Additionally, from 2009 to 2010, the percentage of 4th graders meeting promotional standards fell by one point, from 77 to 76 percent. The percentage of 8th graders moving on to the high school campus after spring testing dropped two points. Combined, the percentage of 4th and 8th grade students meeting promotional standards dropped one percentage point from last year, from 74 to 73 percent. In order to earn promotion to the next grade, 4th and 8th grade students are required to score Basic in either ELA or math - and Approaching Basic in the other subject.

In 17 of the 30 assessments administered annually to students in grades 3-11, the percentage of students scoring Basic and above grew from 2009-2010. There was no change in this measurement for three assessments, while the percent of students at Basic and above declined for 10 assessments.

Also, the majority of school districts, 37 out of 70, made gains in the percentage of students scoring Basic and above from 2009 to 2010, with the largest gains being earned in the Recovery School District (6 points), Richland (5 points), DeSoto Parish (4 points) and Iberville Pa rish (4 points).

"Our objectives are centered on building the capacity of districts and schools to achieve lasting improvement and to do so with a sense of urgency. With that in mind, we are especially pleased by the success of these four districts, which have demonstrated significant improvement not only this year, but in 2009 as well. We will continue pushing forward to drive systematic change and achieve lasting progress," Pastorek concluded.


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