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Louisiana public school students are improving their scores on tests meant to show proficiency in literacy, math and social studies, the state’s education superintendent said Thursday.

But the results indicate most students are not meeting standards meant to indicate readiness for the next grade.

“The results released today show our students and educators are making gains year over year,” State Superintendent John White said in a prepared statement. “The results also illuminate the challenges ahead, in particular the needs of struggling students who are often falling behind as math concepts get more complex or because they have not mastered the fundamentals of reading.” 

Scores on the Louisiana Educational Assessment Program are reported on five levels: unsatisfactory, approaching basic, basic, mastery or advanced. The department calls the test LEAP 2025.

“In its Every Student Succeeds Act plan, Louisiana outlined ambitious academic expectations to guide us through 2025,” White said.

Students who score “mastery” or “advanced” are considered “proficient,” or ready for the next grade level, according to LEAP 2025. By that standard, most students are not ready for the next grade.

“School systems will also use LEAP 2025 results as one source of information with which to determine supports students need,” the education department says. “Under state law, students who have not met basic proficiency standards must receive intensive support over the summer or throughout the year.”

The results will be used to show how much students improved relative to their peers and will be factored into school and school system performance scores, the department adds.

Students in grades 3-8 showed the most improvement in English language arts, with 44 percent scoring mastery or above compared to 37 percent in 2015.

In math, the proportion of students in those grades reaching mastery or advanced increased from 30 percent to 34 percent from 2015 to 2019. In social studies, which the LEAP has tested only since 2017, the percentage of students at mastery or better went from 25 percent the first year to 28 percent this year.

High school students only began taking LEAP assessments last year. When their results are included in the totals, the overall percentage of students at mastery or above went from 43 percent to 44 percent in ELA and from 33 percent to 35 percent in math, while holding steady at 28 percent in social studies.

The department says 70 percent of school systems across the state showed improved scores across ELA, math and social studies.

Priorities for improvement cited by the department include:

• Building a foundation for literacy by providing stronger reading instruction for children from birth through third grade.

• Strengthening social studies instruction.

• Enhancing support for struggling students, including those not yet fluent in English.

• Providing increased support for struggling schools.

Staff Reporter

David Jacobs is a Baton Rouge-based award-winning journalist who has written about government, politics, business and culture in Louisiana for almost 15 years. He joined The Center Square in 2018.