NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The percentage of Louisiana students achieving “mastery” scores on 2016 standardized assessment tests showed a modest improvement, the state Education Department said Thursday. And the overall percentage reaching at least a “basic” score increased as well.
But education officials say achievement gaps remain unacceptably wide — with lower percentages of black students, students with disabilities and students from low-income households making high scores on the “LEAP” tests.
In a telephone news conference, State Education Superintendent John White said the test results — showing a rise in those achieving mastery from 33 percent to 38 percent — are encouraging, given that performance has improved even as the tests and standards have become more challenging. Still, he said the achievement gaps must be closed.
“They are unacceptable in an education system that should be an engine of change and upward mobility,” White said.
He also pointed to figures indicating the state has more work to do preparing students for college. Among the statistics: Fewer than 40 percent of students who enroll in a Louisiana college or university graduate in what is deemed a “time-and-a-half” period after enrolling — meaning six years for those seeking a bachelor’s degree or three years for an associate degree.
A student who scores at the “basic” level shows fundamental skills in subjects like reading and math. Mastery is a level at which a student is considered ready for post-secondary school work.
The percentage of students achieving basic and mastery improved in math, English and science at almost every grade level, according to the results released Thursday. White stressed that the results were achieved at a time of transition. Standards have been raised and tests also are being re-worked to reflect changes recommended by a state panel charged with altering earlier assessments tied strictly to the multi-state Common Core standards opposed by some.
Even with those caveats he considered the results encouraging.
The bad news was the yawning gaps between the white and black students; between students considered “economically disadvantaged and those who are not; and between special education students and regular education students. The disparities range from 26 percentage points to 28 percentage points.
Thursday’s figures also show yearly improvement in achievement of mastery level in Recovery School District schools — low-performing schools taken over by the state. Non-public schools serving students with tuition funded through taxpayer-funded vouchers also saw higher numbers of “mastery students, although it lagged state overall state performance.
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