State testing with Common-Core-aligned content begins this week

Published 12:06 am Sunday, April 6, 2014

VIDALIA — The annual state tests students in Concordia Parish will take this week include more difficult material, but district officials are urging parents not to over emphasize their difficulty.

As part of an effort to align the state’s testing assessment to the more rigorous Common Core State Standards, the state education department is including more common-core-aligned content in tests second through eighth-grade students will take.

“The tests are really a hybrid of the different materials, so we’re a little anxious of what the test is going to look like,” Superintendent Paul Nelson said. “We’re just not sure how much of the test is going to be what at this point.”

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Monday through Thursday, students will take the Louisiana Educational Assessment Programs, or LEAP, and Integrated Louisiana Educational Assessment Programs, or iLEAP.

Students in grades 3, 5, 6 and 7 take the iLEAP test and students in grades 4 and 8 take the LEAP test.

In Louisiana, fourth- and eighth-grade students must pass the LEAP in order to move on to the next grade. Those students took the first part of the LEAP in March and will take the remainder of the test next week.

The iLEAP measures a student’s progress throughout the year but does not affect a child’s grade promotion.

Cindy Smith, director of elementary education and testing coordinator for the school district, said teachers in all the schools were given practice tests in November to help prepare for the upcoming changes.

“We don’t expect a lot of changes but there are a few, so the teachers have been working with the students on that,” Smith said. “We’ve just been working hard to make sure the teachers are teaching the skills the state says are going to be on these tests.”

Previously, a student taking an English language arts (ELA) test might be asked to write an essay on a personal opinion about a subject. The new test will require students to read passages and use facts to support the essay they write.

Through the Common Core State Standards, ELA and mathematics curriculum will be changed in Louisiana, Mississippi and numerous other states with the ultimate goal of setting clear educational standards that states can share and adopt.

The main goal is to determine what students in specific grades should know in all participating states.

Those goals are similar to what Louisiana currently refers to as Grade Level Expectations, or “GLEs.”

Louisiana adopted common core in 2010, and the state education department plans on having all assessments and curriculum aligned with the new state standards in ELA and math by the 2014-2015 school year.

Revised assessments in social studies and science are slated to launch the same year.

Nelson said several bills passing through the Louisiana Legislature at the moment, however, could change what happens with Common Core for the upcoming school year.

“We just don’t really know what’s going to happen yet,” Nelson said. “The last time we looked, there were 10 to 12 bills dealing with Common Core, so we just have to wait and see.”

As the Legislature continues discussing Common Core, Nelson said district officials, teachers and students need to focus on the tests ahead.

“We just encourage students to do their very best on the test and take these tests seriously,” Nelson said. “We ask parents to be encouraging and motivating to their kids and get them to school on time.”