NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The percentage of Louisiana students demonstrating “mastery” of English language arts and math held steady, overall, in tests given this year, the state Department of Education said Tuesday.
Traditionally disadvantaged students — those from low income homes, black students and students with disabilities — continued to lag in performance, although there was slight improvement in some areas.
Results from 2018 Louisiana Education Assessment Program tests showed 43 percent of students overall in grades three through 12 demonstrated mastery or better in English arts; 33 percent in math.
Social Studies testing for grades three through eight showed 27 percent of students earning a “mastery” score.
The “mastery” level has become more important as Louisiana has raised the standards for schools. By 2025, schools will have to have students performing at the mastery level to achieve an A grade under the state’s school evaluation program. Currently, the threshold is “basic” performance.
While Tuesday’s data focused on performance, state Education Superintendent John White said in an online news conference that more data, demonstrating how students in public schools have progressed, will be coming out next month.
Students’ performance and their improvement are both factors in the way schools are evaluated, White stressed.
White said the continued gap between overall results and those of various disadvantaged students remains a problem. “It’s not getting wider but it’s not closing,” he said.
For instance, Tuesday’s figures showed 34 percent of students in grades three through eight scoring at the mastery level overall in English arts, math and social studies, the percentage for those deemed economically disadvantaged was 26 percent. For black students it was 21 percent. In both cases it was a 1 percentage point increase from the year before. In both years, 11 percent of students with disabilities in those grades achieved mastery scores.
White said the figures show the need for improvement in social studies and mathematics. He said there already have been gains in social studies achievement. Part of the problem with math, he said, has been the state’s difficulty in recruiting and retaining teachers with strong math teaching skills for higher grades.
He said a pilot program with more intensive instruction in algebra has shown progress.
Missing from Tuesday’s data were figures on science performance. White said that’s because the state education board authorized new standards only a year ago. The department said a science assessment test was being “field tested.”
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