Superintendent of Education John White met with Acadiana-area school parish leaders Monday morning to outline how to interpret the results of new state tests and explain how the information will be used to monitor students’ progress.
“We’re involved in a transition to higher expectations in our state,” White said following his early morning presentation to about 100 educators. “Our standards are more challenging, but students are rising to those challenges.”
In the spring, students took new tests aligned with the Common Core State Standards. The tests are developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.
Like the implementation of Common Core in Louisiana, the tests associated with the new standards proved controversial in some districts and a small percentage of students opted out of the new tests at their parents’ request. Some parents cited concern over the relevance of the results, which were expected to be released by early fall.
This year’s standardized scores, coupled with the results of 2016 spring testing, will be used to create a baseline for the state’s accountability system, White said. Schools and districts will still receive a letter grade based on the results, as in years past, but the results won’t be used to penalize schools.
“We’re here to talk with educators about how they can communicate with parents about how well their kids did,” White said following the meeting.
“Many kids will do very well. Some kids struggled. No result will be used to punish a child. No result will be used to denigrate educators or schools. What we have to do is know that it’s working. We have higher results now. We have more kids graduating high school. We have more kids scoring higher on the ACT.”
The two-year baseline will be used to chart “how fast we can expect Louisiana kids to make progress toward a higher level,” White said.
In his meeting with educators Monday, White acknowledged the need for adjustments in the state’s accountability system. He said he’s asked the state’s accountability commission to consider adding more weight to schools that make progress with struggling students. Currently, such progress accounts for 10 percent of a school’s score and it should be higher, White told educators.
“What I’m really focused on is — for all kids — how do we measure not just their learning in one year, but the progress they made over the course of the year, from one year to the next,” White said.
White also discussed a new initiative this academic year that targets students with severe cognitive disabilities who previously did not have an avenue to earn a high school diploma, but instead received a certificate of completion.
White said those students will now have the opportunity to take advantage of the state’s Jump Start — or career diploma — program that enables students to earn a workforce training credential in addition to a high school diploma. The change offers students greater opportunities, Lafayette Parish Schools Superintendent Donald Aguillard said.
“The Jump Start program is being modified so those students can learn and receive credentials,” Aguillard said following the meeting with White. “Parents have been asking for a diploma track for a while.”
Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.