The drive to improve Louisiana's long-suffering classroom achievement stalled in the third year of tougher standards, state officials said Wednesday.
The results show that one in three students statewide achieved the new benchmark – mastery – in math, English and science, the same as last year.
"We have raised academic expectations in Louisiana in order to prepare more students for success in college and the workplace, and it is encouraging to see our students and educators embracing these expectations and achieving at levels comparable with other states," state Superintendent of Education John White said in a statement that accompanied the results.
"But there remains more work to be done," he added.
Less than four in 10 public school students met Louisiana's lofty target on key state tests,…
Results for students in grades 3-8 are put into one of five achievement levels: advanced, mastery, basic, approaching basic and unsatisfactory.
The previous state benchmark was basic, which meant partial mastery of the material.
The new standard is mastery – ready for the next educational level.
Students will have to average mastery, and meet other academic targets, for schools to earn an A rating starting in 2025.
The exams are called the Louisiana Educational Assessment Program, or LEAP, which began in 1999.
The latest version is an update of the Common Core exams, which featured more rigor in math, English and reading.
In a radical change from last year, about 300,000 public schools students Monday begin takin…
Students in grades 5-8 took the English, math and science tests online for the first time.
Social studies exams are still being graded.
Figures compiled by the state Department of Education show how districts have fared in achieving mastery in the past two years. The state grew by four percentage points since 2015, to 33 percent.
District results include Ascension, 48 percent, up four; East Baton Rouge, 27 percent, up two; Jefferson 29 percent, no change; Lafayette, 35 percent, up two; Livingston, 42 percent, up three; Orleans, 25 percent, up one; St. Bernard, 37 percent, up two; St. Charles, 45 percent, up two; St. John the Baptist, 26 percent, up two; St. Tammany, 43 percent, up one; West Baton Rouge, 31 percent, up five; West Feliciana, 45 percent, up three; Zachary, 54 percent, up one and Central, 47 percent, up six.
Students did best in English and struggled most in science. A total of 42 percent of students achieved mastery in English, 32 percent in math and 24 percent in science.
The English results have risen five percentage points in the past two years, and White said the gains dovetail with improvements on the nation's report card.
Math and science scores each rose two points, and math challenges are most noticeable in middle schools.
Earlier this year a panel named by Gov. John Bel Edwards recommended a reduction in annual science testing, which White opposed. "It is critical that we emphasize science," he said Wednesday.
Less than one in five voucher recipients – 18 percent – achieved mastery, up from 13 percent two years ago.
"Responsive educators are always seeking stronger results, and I'm optimistic for the future based on conversations with superintendents about exciting work in their schools," Cade Brumley, president of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents, said of the results.
Brumley is superintendent of the DeSoto Parish School District in northwest Louisiana.
School districts impacted by the August, 2016 flood showed no major differences with other school systems.
The statewide results show historic gaps remain between black and white students and those from economically disadvantaged homes.
A total of 45 percent of white students achieved mastery this year compared to 19 percent for black students, a gap of 26 percentage points.
Students from economically disadvantaged homes scored 27 percentage points lower than their more well-off peers – 25 percent at mastery compared to 52 percent.
"And that is troublesome," White told reporters of the lack of shrinkage in the income gap.