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Parish school board looks at scores

VIDALIA — The Concordia Parish School Board reviewed the district’s annual test scores Thursday and discussed strategies for improving scores next year.

Concordia Parish students dropped 1 percentage point this year on the annual Louisiana Educational Assessment Program exam, or LEAP, and the Integrated Louisiana Educational Assessment Program, or iLEAP.

The tests were redesigned this year to include more questions based on the Common Core State Standards, which were adopted by states across the country and seek to incorporate more rigorous content in classrooms.

Students in grades four and eight took the LEAP, while students in third, fifth, sixth and seventh grades took the iLEAP.

The percent of students in Concordia schools scoring basic and above on both tests decreased to 62 percent in 2014 compared to 63 percent in 2013. That number has fluctuated back and forth in Concordia Parish since 2010.

Concordia Parish School District Director of Second Education Rhonda White Wilson said given the changes to state tests in the past couple of years, test scores could have been worse.

The tests this year, Wilson told the board, were more text-based, rigorous and complex.

Wilson presented a slideshow about the scores and showed sample questions and answers to illustrate the differences in this year’s test.

Some areas of the tests now require students to give multiple answers, Superintendent Paul Nelson said, instead of one answer as on previous standardized tests.

Other challenges the district faces is incentivizing upper-class students to pass end-of-the-year exams when they do not need to pass them to graduate. Nelson said there is a percentage of students who will calculate what exams they need to pass and which ones they can afford to fail and still graduate.

Board member Jeffery Goodman said that formula does not encourage students to do their best.

“We’re allowing them to believe they don’t have to be the best they can be,” Goodman said.

On the state level, 69 percent of public school students scored at the basic or above level on standardized tests this year.

The state has been making changes to its LEAP and iLEAP tests, administered to students in grades three through eight, preparing for the transition next year to the PARCC tests. Those tests are being used in nearly a dozen other states with the stated aim of better measuring students’ critical-thinking, problem-solving and communication skills, while measuring achievement under Common Core standards.

The LEAP tests are normally high-stake tests that require students to achieve a certain score to proceed to the next grade.

As a result of the tests incorporating more rigorous Common Core material, the consequences of test scores will be eased for two years.

During the two-year transition, any school or district that maintained or improved its annual performance score will not experience a decrease in its current letter grade.

Wilson explained plans the district has to ensure scores improve, including curriculum changes and teacher training.

“We are facing some challenges, and our teachers are working hard,” Wilson said. “We’re wanting to get a really good handle on this.”