Spring 2016 LEAP assessment results show improvement

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BATON ROUGE (Dept. of Education News Release) - The Louisiana Department of Education today announced results of the spring 2016 LEAP assessments. Students improved performance in English language arts (ELA) and math, increasing from 33 percent of all ELA and math tests in those subjects scoring "Mastery" or above in 2015 to 38 percent in 2016 and from 65 percent scoring "Basic" or above in 2015 to 67 percent in 2016. Additionally, the percentage of students scoring "Mastery" or above in science increased at every grade level from 2015 to 2016. The trend indicates that students, educators, and schools are adjusting to higher expectations implemented through a four-year transition period, mirroring a similar trend in other states.

Performance also improved among historically disadvantaged student populations, though not at the same rate as the general population in every case. At the "Mastery" level, economically disadvantaged students saw a five percentage point increase, equal to the state increase, from 25 percent in 2015 to 30 percent in 2016. African-American students realized a three percentage point increase in students scoring "Mastery," from 21 percent in 2015 to 24 percent in 2016.

While overall student performance improved, achievement gaps between peers persist. The achievement gap between African-American students and white students at the "Mastery" level is 26 percentage points. Likewise, the achievement gap at the "Mastery" level between economically disadvantaged students and those who are not economically disadvantaged is 28 percentage points. Both gaps are larger today than they were under less challenging standards, prior to the transition.

"We have raised academic expectations in order to prepare more students for the workplace and college. These results are encouraging. However, still today, too few students are fully prepared for the next level of education, and significant gaps remain in performance between historically disadvantaged students and their peers," said State Superintendent John White. "We have the opportunity to address these challenges through Louisiana's plan in response to the Every Student Succeeds Act. I am greatly encouraged by the conversations I have had with educators, parents, community members, business leaders, and civil rights advocates over the last two months."

Transitioning Tests
These results are part of a four-year "baseline" evaluation of student skills in Louisiana. After the baseline period, the state will gradually raise performance requirements for schools in the school rating system. Historically an "A" school is one where the average score is "Basic." By 2025, an "A" school will be one where the average score is "Mastery," indicating full readiness for the next level of education.

During this transition, the Department will work in partnership with BESE, the Accountability Commission, and other key stakeholder groups to determine the pace at which schools and schools systems will move towards "Mastery."

BESE also continued its transition policies during this baseline period - ensuring school and district letter grades do not fall below the pre-transition distribution; allowing "high-stakes" promotion decisions to be made locally rather than through state tests; and not requiring that tests data be used for educator evaluations. These policies continue through 2017.

Louisiana has worked to increase expectations for students steadily over the past two decades through its accountability system. In the coming years, Louisiana will continue to raise expectations to reach its 2025 goal.

+ 1999: Grades 4 and 8 LEAP assessments designed to be as challenging as NAEP; results are not comparable across states. "Approaching Basic" (level 2) and levels above earn school performance points.

+ 2006: Grades 3, 5, 6, and 7 iLEAP assessments designed to be as challenging as NAEP; results are not comparable with other states.

+ 2014: LEAP assessment measures new standards shared by multiple states, but questions are specific to Louisiana and not comparable to other states.

+ 2015: LEAP assessment measures shared standards; includes only questions shared by other states; results are significantly comparable to other states for the first time.

+ 2016: LEAP assessment measures shared standards, and partially uses state-shared test questions. Test results remain significantly comparable with those in other states. Review of the Louisiana Student Standards completed. State testing reduced to one week; minutes of testing dropped by 38 percent.

+ 2017-2019: LEAP 2025 online assessments for English, math, and social studies. Tests will be Louisiana-specific but English and math tests will remain comparable to other states. Science standards will be reviewed.

+ 2025: Schools earning "A" rating will average "Mastery" performance rather than "Basic."

Supporting Educators and Parents During the Transition
As students and families head back to school, teachers can use the LEAP results as a basis for conversations with parents to discuss their children's academic progress and areas for growth in upcoming back-to-school nights. To support teachers' and parents' understanding of these assessment results, the Department has released a Back-to-School Guide along with the following resources. Districts, principals, teachers, and parents are encouraged to use these resources to guide conversations concerning student results.

+ Parent Guide to the LEAP Student Reports: helps parents read and interpret the LEAP student reports, with accompanying online resources.

+ Parent Conversation Guide for Teachers: guiding questions for teachers to prepare for parent conferences regarding LEAP results.

+ Back-to-School Night Presentation: customizable presentation that schools can use to provide parents with information on 2016-2017 academic goals, standards and instruction, and understanding student LEAP results.

** Links to these resources have been posted in the related links section of this story **

Louisiana Results
During the transition in standards and assessments, Louisiana students have achieved gains on several longstanding national and state indicators.

+ Louisiana's fourth-grade students achieved the highest growth among all states on the 2015 NAEP reading test and the second highest growth in math.

+ In 2016, the ACT average composite score increased for the third year in a row to 19.5, and a record 25,144 high school seniors in the class of 2016 earned a college-going score (18+), an increase of 6,837 students since 2012.

+ Louisiana's 2015 high school graduation rate was an all-time high of 77.5 percent.

+ Louisiana's class of 2015 Advanced Placement® results showed greater annual improvement than any state other than Massachusetts.