The results are in, but LEAP 2025 is only one piece of educational assessment puzzle

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By Juanice Gray, jgray@natchitochestimes.com

An abundance of statistical data concerning the Spring LEAP 2025 tests became available Tuesday, July 10 when the state released school and district test scores.

School systems across the state will use this, and other data to be released in August, to determine strengths and weaknesses, set up interventions and implement programs. The data can be confusing to the layperson.

LEAP 2025 school and district results are not the only factors used in determining growth. According to Julee´ Wright, director of federal programs for the Natchitoches Parish School Board, the reports detail only the percentage of students scoring Mastery and above for grades 3-8 for 2016-17 and 2017-18, as well as percentages at each achievement level. “These scores account for 75 percent of the 3-8 School Performance Score (SPS). The remaining 25 percent of the School Performance Scores will come from Progress Index results, which should be released in August,” Wright said.

They also account for a small portion of the High School Performance Score. “At this time, we know that our district decreased 1 percent, overall, in the percent of tests scoring mastery and above.” For example, when looking only at the Advanced level in third grade English/language arts (ELA), the parish, at 5 percent, was only one percentage point below the state.

The parish was even with the state at 7 percent in math and came in at 5 percent in social studies to the state’s 6. When compared to nearby parishes, Natchitoches at 5 percent in Advanced also held up to Winn and Sabine at 4 percent each and Red River at 9. Jefferson Davis Parish has a student body count similar to Natchitoches and came in at 3 percent Advanced.

Things were more consistent across the parishes in math. Natchitoches, the state, Winn and Jefferson Davis all came in at 7 percent, Red River at 6 and Sabine at 5. Also consistent were the social studies scores. The state and Jefferson Davis had 6 percent, Natchitoches 5, Winn and Sabine 4 and Red River 3. This is only one category of numbers. The Mastery, Basic, Approaching Basic and Unsatisfactory levels must also be considered to form a complete picture.

By state standards, Advanced and Mastery are considered proficient, or that the student is ready for the next grade level. The district can use and analyze this information to establish a baseline on which to build their plans once the remaining data is released next month. “Our Economically Disadvantaged students remained steady, our African American students grew 1 percent, our English Learners grew 1 percent and our Students with Disabilities experienced a slight decrease of 3 percent,” Wright said. According to state numbers, 25 percent of economically disadvantaged students in the state scored at Mastery or Advanced. In the parish, it was 22 percent. The subgroups are also broken down into Black or African American, English Learner and Students with Disabilities.

At a glance, the numbers depicting the percentage of testers scoring Mastery and Advanced in all three assessments, ELA, math and social studies, look promising. Marthaville, Natchitoches Jr. High and NSU Elementary Lab each showed a positive change of 4 percentage points over the 2017 scores while Natchitoches Magnet had 3 and Lakeview had 1. Fairview Alpha, Frankie Ray Jackson Sr. Technical Center and the Lakeview Annex remained flat.

Keep in mind, this data only details the percentage of students scoring Mastery and above. This is the first year of the state’s plan to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The LEAP 2025 includes ELA, math, science and social studies for grades 3-12. Information from the State Dept. of Education states LEAP evolved as the state’s standards have become more challenging. In 2016-17, assessments in ELA, math, and social studies shifted online in grades 3-8, as they had been in high school for a decade, and a new social studies assessment for grades 3-8 was implemented. In 2017-18, new high school assessments in English I and II, Algebra I, Geometry and U.S. History were implemented to better align with grades 3-8, and a science assessment for grades 3-8 aligned to the revised standards was field tested.

School systems can begin sending home student reports for LEAP 2025 to families and students, along with a copy of the Parent Guide to the LEAP 2025 Student Reports. Next, the Department will release preliminary 2017-18 student progress results for schools and teachers showing how well students are progressing toward Mastery. Value-added results will be released to school systems in August to provide teachers with information on how students improved relative to their peers.

Finally, starting this fall, the state will reward schools not only for students’ outright performance on state tests but also for how much students improve throughout the school year. A new “Student Progress Index” will be added to the accountability system and will account for 25 percent of an elementary or middle school’s overall school performance score and 12.5 percent of a high school’s overall grade.

Those scores, their accompanying letter grade equivalent and school profiles will be made available through the Louisiana School Finder (louisianaschools.com) this fall.

For more information, visit the Louisiana Department of Education at www.louisianabelieves.com.