Parish parents seek to join LEAP lawsuit

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 14, 2000

VIDALIA, La. — Two mothers of Concordia Parish students are seeking to organize a group of parents to join a lawsuit over Louisiana’s LEAP test.

Debra Probst and Lisa Hutchins are asking those interested in joining the suit, which a New Orleans group called Parents for Educational Justice filed against the State of Louisiana on March 1, to meet at 7 p.m. Monday at the Vidalia Recreation Center.

They, like the current plaintiffs, do not want to cancel the test. But they do not want fourth- and eighth-grade students to have to pass the test to get promoted to the next grades. Starting this year, passing the LEAP test is required for the students to be promoted. &uot;They tell kids they don’t want them to be upset by the test, yet you can have straight A’s all year and this test can fail you,&uot; said Hutchins, mother of a fourth-grader. &uot;The schools have been supportive, so you can’t blame them — it’s just the system. The children are stressed.&uot;

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Louisiana Superintendent of Education Cecil Picard called the lawsuit and Concordia parents’ efforts to join it &uot;unfortunate&uot; and said students are being prepared for the test. He said the LEAP test is simply Louisiana’s effort to determine students’ academic weak points and help them to strengthen them early on, even if it means holding them back a year in school.

&uot;As a parent and grandparent, I&160;have compassion for the students taking this test … and it is a rigorous test,&uot; he said. &uot;But all we’re doing is making sure they know the minimum skills needed to move to the next grade.&uot;

&uot;Hopefully, it will keep more students from falling through the cracks.&uot;

But Probst and Hutchins said they have gotten verbal support from many parents who believe, as they do, that basing so much of student’s future on one test is wrong.

In addition, many intelligent students just do not do well on standardized tests, Probst said. &uot;There are better ways to tell whether students are learning what they should,&uot;&160;she added.

And she argues that if more students are held back while the students in lower classes are being promoted, the result will be more crowded fourth- and eighth-grade classrooms with even less individualized attention.

Concordia Parish Superintendent Lester &uot;Pete&uot; Peterman said Tuesday that he will not comment on the lawsuit until a later date.