Without an assessment of where we stand, it’s hard to know where to go.
That’s why in 1999 Louisiana began measuring the reading and math skills of elementary and middle school students using the LEAP test. Students performing at level 3 out of 5, called “basic,” were deemed ready for the next grade level.
But it turns out that “basic” does not indicate that a student is on track for success in community colleges, universities, or the workplace. While 71 percent of Louisiana students achieved “basic” math scores in 2014, for example, only 22 percent achieved a community college- or university-ready score on the ACT. “Basic,” it turns out, can be a false promise of readiness for the next level of education.
Five years ago Louisiana set out to correct this. Louisiana educators joined with peers from across the country to create a test called PARCC that raises expectations for students and uses the same measuring stick as other states to determine students’ readiness for the next level.
Students took the test last spring, and every test has been graded in exactly the same way, in every state using the test. We can expect the results to show that many of our students are on track for community college and university success and that many are not.
Most important, however, is what we adults do with these scores in year one.
First, our state must sustain its gradual shift toward making level 4 on the test, “mastery,” the new standard, rather than “basic.” By the year 2025 an A-rated school in Louisiana will have an average performance of “mastery,” not “basic,” as is the case today. We should not indicate a student is on track for college, when the evidence indicates it’s not the case.
Second, our state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) must ensure the minimum test scores each student has to achieve in order to accomplish “basic” or “mastery” are the same in Louisiana as in other states using the test. BESE will consider this issue Tuesday. Playing by the same rules as other states shows a commitment to keeping high expectations in place and competing on a level playing field with states across America, as Louisiana deserves.
It would be wrong to use this year’s test results to denigrate educators or students in any way. They have worked hard to raise expectations in recent years, and it has not been easy.
So let’s use these results to do right by our children. Louisiana’s students are as smart and as capable as any in America. They deserve an education on par with any in this country, and they are owed expectations higher than “basic.”
State superintendent of education