Fourth- and eighth-grade public school students showed slight gains this year on a test required for promotion, including students in the Baton Rouge area, officials said Wednesday.
In addition, the number of students performing on grade level rose by two percentage points, which state Superintendent of Education John White said is notable in grappling with one of Louisiana’s top education problems.
“We are seeing significant growth,” White said during a news conference at an elementary school in Jefferson Parish.
State officials released the results of three tests given to students in March, including LEAP, which is aimed at ensuring that students master minimal skills in math and English.
Students have to pass LEAP, and meet other standards, to move to the fifth and ninth grades.
The results show that:
- 82 percent of fourth-graders passed the test, up from 80 percent last year.
- 75 percent of eighth-graders passed the test, up from 74 percent last year.
Last year the passage rate for both fourth- and eighth-graders rose by four percentage points.
In East Baton Rouge Parish, the passage rate for eighth-graders rose by five percentage points and fourth-graders by two percentage points.
District officials said students showed gains in 18 of 24 tested areas, outperformed the state in eighth-grade gains and have shown notable improvements among fourth-and eighth-graders since 2006.
“These high-stakes testing grades showed continued and sustained growth,” Barbara Freiberg, president of the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board, said in a prepared statement.
In Ascension Parish, scores rose by four percentage points among fourth-graders and one point for eighth-graders.
In Livingston Parish scores rose by two percentage points among fourth graders — 92 percent — and stayed the same for eighth-graders — 85 percent.
Results are divided into five categories: advanced, mastery, basic, approaching basic and unsatisfactory.
Students have to achieve “basic” in math or English and “approaching basic” in the other to pass.
Since 2000, LEAP results have served as sort of a symbol of Louisiana’s latest bid to improve student achievement, which has ranked near the bottom nationally for decades.
The Zachary Community School District, which has been the top-rated district in Louisiana for years, is also tops in the state in terms of students performing on grade level — 87 percent.
The West Feliciana and Central school districts are tied for second with 83 percent.
White said the test results show that 68 percent of students are performing at grade level, up from 66 percent last year and the largest such gain in three years.
In 1999, 45 percent of students were on grade level.
However, 225,000 are still working below grade level, which is nearly one-third of students statewide and a recurring topic at meetings of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
In a prepared statement, BESE President Penny Dastugue said the trend “is proof that we’re moving in the right direction.”
Other results released were iLEAP, which is given to students in grades three, five, six and seven but is not linked to promotion, and the Graduation Exit Exam, which was given to 11th-graders for the final time.
The GEE, which students have to pass to earn a traditional high school diploma, is being replaced by end-of-course exams.