“The end-of-course test results increased dramatically compared to what they were the year before.” John white, state superintendent of education
While public high school gains played a key role in Louisiana’s improved education report card, tougher tests will make things harder next year, officials said Tuesday.
More rigorous end-of-course exams for high school students in 2013 are among the top factors likely to produce fewer sparkling report cards, said Michael Faulk, president of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents and superintendent of the A-rated Central school system.
“I think it is going to bring them down,” Faulk said of next year’s rules for determining how the state’s 1,303 public schools are faring.
The state’s overall school performance score, which is based mostly on how students did on key tests, shot up by 10 percent this year, the largest gain ever.
The list of A-rated school districts rose from one to seven, and D and F school districts dropped from 44 percent to 36 percent.
Three out of four elementary, middle and high schools showed gains.
Of those, 440 — 34 percent of the total — improved enough to earn rewards of about $8,500 from the state for meeting growth targets.
Faulk said his school district needed a 10-point rise on a 200-point scale to achieve an A.
Central rose by 14.1 points, to 124.1.
“High schools kind of shot up there from district to district,” he said.
One of the key reasons, officials said, is that students showed dramatic improvements on end-of-course exams, which measure what students know about algebra I, English 2, biology, American history and other subjects.
The test replaced the Graduation Exit Exam, which high school students formerly had to pass to earn a traditional diploma.
“The end-of-course test results increased dramatically compared to what they were the year before,” state Superintendent of Education John White said Monday.
“When you do well on end-of-course tests, you will do well on the letter grade.”
But those exams — they account for 70 percent of a high school’s annual score — will be more rigorous in 2013 as well as the grading.
“The tests are going to get harder, and therein lies what the great challenge in front of us will be,” White said Tuesday.
West Baton Rouge Parish School District Superintendent David Corona, whose district rose from a C to a B, said better high school results played a big role.
“We did very well on end-of-course testing,” Corona said. “That was the primary driver at our two high schools.”
The high school gains are a sharp turnaround from previous years, when state school leaders complained that high schools were not showing improvements like elementary and middle schools.
This time, 48 high schools earned an A — 35 percent of the total — compared to 80 elementary and middle schools — 8 percent of the total.
In addition, starting next year, all juniors will have to take the ACT — a test of college readiness — and not just those who plan to attend college.
Those results will account for 25 percent of a school’s results.
ACT results are not a part of current high school ratings.
Corona said one of the keys will be finding incentives for all students to do well on the ACT, not just those headed for college.
White said the state’s overall gains also stemmed from steady improvements in Louisiana’s high school graduation rate.
The graduation rate last year was 71.4 percent, up from 67.2 percent in 2010.
White said high schools get credit both for gains and a bonus for rates over 65 percent, which helped school scores released Tuesday.