In 1999, under Gov. Mike Foster, Louisiana created the LEAP test, measuring how well schools teach college and workplace skills.
As a result of this Louisiana “accountability” plan, achievement has improved. The state’s high school graduation rate is at an all-time high, for example.
Louisiana still ranks among the bottom three states in reading and math, however. In 2009, Louisiana education officials asked how we could make so much improvement and still be so far behind. They found that many other states expected more of their students.
That year, Louisiana educators participated in creating the Common Core State Standards to establish high expectations in reading, writing and math skills that would be shared across state lines.
In 2012, the Louisiana Legislature passed a law requiring state tests to measure students against the new standards.
In 2014, 50,000 Louisiana students tried out these new tests, called PARCC. Next month, 300,000 Louisiana students will take the same challenging tests as will 5 million students across America.
But the Louisiana accountability plan should not stop there. The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education should continue the plan, making two improvements.
First, state rules require every seven years there be a review of the state’s academic standards. A review of the Common Core English and math standards is scheduled to start in 2016.
That is too far away. This fall, BESE will have ACT and graduation results for 2015. BESE should convene a commission of Louisiana teachers, using these results to evaluate how well the new English and math standards have prepared students for college and the workplace, and do so on an ongoing basis.
Second, the law requires BESE to administer annual tests, such as ACT and PARCC, which show how well we compete with states across the country.
BESE’s contract with the company implementing the PARCC test in Louisiana expires this summer, but, rather than waiting, BESE should immediately launch a competitive bidding process, partnering with a company to provide the Louisiana test required by law.
A quality test will measure student performance against our state’s high English and math standards. It also will show results that are comparable to those in other states.
Such a test could include PARCC questions, for which students and teachers have been preparing for five years. But it shouldn’t be limited to PARCC questions, especially if there are other questions that measure high expectations and allow us to compete with other states.
What’s more, the state should reduce the number of tests required in high school. Louisiana teachers should review and provide input on test questions. And Louisiana parents should be able to review full sample tests each year.
It is important that BESE make improvements. But, for our children, and for their children, BESE must continue the Louisiana accountability plan.
state representative, District 86
state representative, District 91