Louisiana public school students had the highest passage rate on a test required for promotion since the exam was launched in 1999, state officials said Tuesday.

The Louisiana Educational Assessment Program test makes sure fourth- and eighth-graders master basic skills in math and English before they move to the fifth and ninth grades.

After summer retests for students who fell short in the spring, 84.9 percent of students cleared the LEAP exam.

Among fourth-graders, 87 percent of students passed LEAP in spring or summer, up from 86 percent last year.

Among eighth-graders, 82 percent passed in spring or summer, up from 80 percent last year.

Results of the test fall into five categories: advanced, mastery, basic, approaching basic and unsatisfactory.

Student have to earn scores of at least “approaching basic” in math or English and “basic” in the other to move up a grade.

The results also mean that 67 percent of students are performing at grade level, up from 61 percent in 2008, according to a prepared statement by the state Department of Education.

“These results signify Louisiana is moving in the right direction,” said Penny Dastugue, president of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

In another area, state officials said high school freshmen showed gains in the results of end-of-course exams, which counted this year for the first time.

The tests are designed to make sure students master key skills in core subjects.

Students have to earn passing marks in at least three of six subjects during their high school career to collect a standard diploma.

End-of-course exams will replace the Graduation Exit Exam starting with the freshman class of 2010-11.

The results show that:

• 89 percent of students this year passed English compared with 80 percent last year.

• 79 percent of students passed Algebra I, compared with 71 percent last year.

• 75 percent passed geometry compared with 66 percent last year.

End-of-course tests for biology, English III and American history will be phased in over the next two years.

Students can achieve ratings of excellent, good, fair or needs improvement.

They have to earn a rating of fair or better to pass the test.