White wants to continue some sort of accountability testing

While the high-stakes test called LEAP ends next year, some sort of measuring stick will likely remain for future students in key grades, state Superintendent of Education John White said Thursday.

What any such replacement will look like and other details will start being discussed by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in December, White said.

“I think there will certainly be an appetite to continue with accountability,” White said.

The superintendent made his comments during an hour-long meeting with the editorial board of The Advocate.

Under current rules, fourth- and eighth-graders have to pass the math and English portions of LEAP and meet other academic standards to move to the fifth and ninth grades.

LEAP stands for Louisiana Educational Assessment Program.

About 100,000 public school students took the test in March.

Since 2000, LEAP has been a key symbol of Louisiana’s latest push to improve academic achievement in public schools, and passage rates have shown big gains even though standards are considered modest.

Critics contend it is unfair to link promotion to a single test, and some lawmakers have made unsuccessful bids to repeal the requirement.

LEAP is being phased out amid sweeping changes in public schools, including next month’s launch of national academic standards, which are called the common core curriculum and which will carry rigorous tests of its own.

After next year the state will also end iLEAP, a skills test given to students in grades three, five, six and seven but one that does not require passage for promotion.

White said talks on new standards and accountability are in the offing at BESE, which sets policies for about 700,000 public school students.

“I realize that is going to be a difficult conversation,” he said.

White said that, while state lawmakers he has talked to agree with the need to revamp high school diplomas, there is less consensus on education standards.

“I think there is a wide divergence of opinion,” he said.

White said LEAP has been successful in part because the state has set passing standards, then gradually raised the bar.

In 2004, 78 percent of fourth-graders passed after spring tests and summer re-tests, according to the state Department of Education.

Last year 89 percent did so.

In 2006, 71 percent of eighth-graders passed LEAP.

Last year 84 percent did so.