LEAP results show unchanged promotion rates

Promotion rates for fourth- and eighth-graders on a test required for advancement are essentially unchanged this year compared with 2012, figures released by the state Department of Education showed Wednesday.

The results also show that:

Public school students are struggling with more rigorous classes, which will become more common as part of a nationwide push to improve student achievement.

The percentage of students performing at grade level improved slightly.

Test scores for schools that accept voucher students were flat.

The Zachary and Central school systems finished first and second statewide in test results for students in grades 3 through 8.

Among other school districts West Feliciana is seventh; Livingston is ninth; Ascension Parish is 11th, West Baton Rouge Parish is 30th and East Baton Rouge Parish is 48th.

All of the results are part of the state Department of Education’s annual release of key test scores stemming from spring exams.

That list includes the Louisiana Educational Assessment Program, or LEAP.

Fourth- and eighth-graders have to pass the test, and meet other standards, to move to the fifth and ninth grades.

The results show that:

Among initial test takers, 81 percent of fourth-graders passed the test in the spring compared with 82 percent last year.

Among eighth-graders, 76 percent passed the exam this time, compared with 75 percent last year.

In the East Baton Rouge Parish school system, 80 percent of fourth-graders passed, up from 75 percent last year.

The rate for eighth-graders rose to 70 percent, up from 69 percent last year.

Statewide, the near lack of change in LEAP results is a contrast with recent years.

In 2012 scores rose slightly for both fourth- and eighth-graders.

In 2011 the passage rates for both grades went up by four percentage points.

State Superintendent of Education John White said one factor in this year’s results may be tougher classes that are part of a national drive for more rigorous classes, which is called the “common core” movement.

The change is supposed to provide more depth on less material and better prepare students to compete with their peers worldwide.

White said new writing assignments on some of the exams, which are part of the phase-in, show that Louisiana students have a ways to go.

“The challenges ahead are significant,” White said. “We have evidence of that on this year’s tests.”

In another area, the percentage of students in grades 3 through 8 who performed at grade level or above rose from 68 percent to 69 percent.

That means about 5,000 fewer students are performing below their current grade, officials said.

The latest snapshot of school performance includes LEAP results as well as iLEAP, which is a skills test taken by students in grades 3, 5, 6 and 7.

In the first year of Louisiana’s expanded voucher program, White said scores schools that accept those students were flat.

White downplayed the results, in part because he said the exams were taken by about 2,000 students this year compared with about 500 in 2012, when vouchers were limited to New Orleans.

Vouchers are state aid that allows some students who formerly attended public schools rated C, D and F to attend private and parochial schools.