Students face tougher assessments

Public school students will face tougher questions on annual assessments this school year as part of Louisiana’s move to a more rigorous curriculum, state Superintendent of Education John White said Wednesday.

However, none of the answers will count on this year’s results.

More rigorous questions for English, math, science and social studies will count for about 10 percent of the results for the 2013-14 school year, White said.

New academic standards and assessments will take full effect, and all the answers will count in the 2014-15 school year.

The changes are part of a nationwide drive to set up common standards, and place more focus on less material in hopes of making students more competitive internationally.

Critics say public schools in Louisiana and other states try to cover too much material and students often fail to master key skills before moving to the next grade.

Details of the revamped test schedules were spelled out in memos to school districts statewide Wednesday.

The additional rigor will apply for now to LEAP, which fourth- and eighth-graders have to pass for promotion; iLEAP, which students take in grades three, five, six and seven, and end-of-course exams, which high school students have to pass to show they have a solid understanding of certain courses.

Both the LEAP and iLEAP tests are being phased out.

Exactly how they will be replaced is unclear.

End-of-course tests have replaced the high school exit exam, which students used to have to pass to earn a traditional diploma.

White said that, starting this school year, students will face new, open-ended questions in math and English.

The English test will require that students read a text, then respond to questions using passages from that text.

Students will be required to write short essays that analyze themes, character development and other issues from a passage, including evidence from the text to back up their conclusions.

Some of the math questions will require students to explain how they arrived at their answers.

They will also require them to precisely communicate their conclusions, respond to arguments from others and apply math to daily life.

White said science and social studies exams will include both multiple choice and open-ended questions.

They will require students to analyze reading passages or texts to answer questions and texts may include graphs, charts and maps.