Almost 6,000 Louisiana fourth and eighth grade students succeeded in passing the LEAP test after taking summer school courses and retaking at least a portion of the test, according to results released last Monday.
Students take LEAP in the fourth and eighth grades and GEE in the tenth and eleventh grades. The GEE determines whether students are eligible to graduate from high school. LEAP is used to determine whether students advance to the 5th and ninth grades; however, the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education suspended its high stakes testing policy for LEAP for this year only, due to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
The suspension of the policy mandated that all students take LEAP but allowed local school districts to determine promotional standards for students in the fourth and eighth grades. Sixteen school districts chose to retain the current high stakes testing policy, 46 districts retained the policy with modifications and 6 districts chose to fully suspend the policy.
There are five achievement levels students can attain: Unsatisfactory, Approaching Basic, Basic, Mastery or Advanced. To pass the fourth grade LEAP test, students are required to score at least Basic in one of two subjects-English and Math-and at least Approaching Basic in the other subject. State officials planned to phase in that same, higher, promotional standard for eighth graders this year until the hurricanes caused the one-year suspension of the high stakes policy. This policy will now go into effect for the first time next year.
If BESE had not waived the high stakes testing policy for 2006, 78 percent of the state's initial test-taking fourth graders would have passed the LEAP test after spring and summer testing, compared to 81 percent in 2005. That is a slight drop, but state officials point out that these test scores need to be viewed in the context of the upheaval the hurricanes caused this year.
"This year has been different than any other we've faced in Louisiana because of the hurricanes that devastated many districts and drastically increased the student population of so many others," said State Superintendent of Education, Cecil J. Picard. "Many of our schools lost weeks, even months of schooling."
In 8th grade, the summer and spring combined passage rate increased from 82 percent in 2005 to 85 percent in 2006. However, if the higher promotional standard of scoring Basic in one subject and Approaching Basic in the other to be promoted had been in effect for eighth grade this year, the passage rate would have dropped to 71 percent.
"We understand that this has been a difficult year for all of our students. The hurricanes caused so much emotional trauma and a tremendous disruption in instruction," related State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education President, Linda Johnson. "That said, these eighth grade scores should be seen as a wake-up call, since the higher promotional standard will be enforced for eighth graders this coming school year, and we must ensure that our students are prepared to meet these higher expectations."