La. public schools back to 49th in academics

In a rerun of previous studies, Louisiana public-school students rank 49th in the nation in academic achievement, according to a report released Thursday.

The grade is D minus, which is up from an F for the three previous years, Education Week magazine said in its annual “Quality Counts” report on the state of education nationwide.

The review focuses on a variety of areas to rate the quality of public schools.

The state is ranked 48th in its success indicators for children, including family income, parental education and parental employment.

The grade is C minus.

The state is also 22nd in the fairness and level of spending for public schools, resulting in a C grade.

Louisiana often gets low marks for classroom achievement and high marks for its academic standards, many of which stem from the state’s latest push to improve public schools that began around 2000.

The low rankings in academic achievement set off renewed alarms from educators.

The category includes 18 measures, including how students fared last year on a test known as the nation’s report card.

Those results are:

Fourth-grade math: 50th.

Fourth-grade reading: 48th.

Eighth-grade math: 49th.

Eighth-grade reading: 48th.

The state earned 59.8 points on a 100-point scale.

The national score is 70.2 and a grade of C minus.

Asked if state Superintendent of Education John White wanted to comment, the department issued a prepared statement that noted the state’s high school graduation rate is at an all-time high, record numbers are scoring at grade level on LEAP and other tests and the number of students who qualified for college entry on a test of college readiness rose by 3,600 students.

“However, continuing to rank near the bottom is unacceptable and further shows the importance of higher expectations and increased standards that are as rigorous as other states across the country,” the statement says.

The new standards refer to Common Core, which is aimed at improving math and reading skills and has sparked controversy.

On the plus side, fourth-graders in Louisiana ranked 12th in the nation in improved reading scores over the past decade, Education Week said.

Fourth-graders and eighth-graders who live in poor families ranked 10th in closing the achievement gap in reading and math respectively over a decade.

The state’s 67 percent high school graduation rate at the time of the survey was 45th in the nation, but ranked 18th in the nation for improvement between 2000-2010. The current rate is 72.3 percent.

Louisiana is last in the nation in the number of high school students who qualified for college credit, a longtime problem.

In a related area, the state got low marks in several of 13 indicators that are supposed to shed light on a child’s chances for success.

The magazine said Louisiana ranks 46th in the rate of children from poor families, 50th for children in homes where at least one parent has a postsecondary degree and 45th where at least one parent is working full-time and year-round.

The average state received a C plus in that category.