Concordia Parish scores decrease with more difficult material on state tests

Published 12:12 am Wednesday, May 28, 2014

VIDALIA — Concordia Parish students dropped 1 percentage point this year on annual state tests, but education officials say that was expected due to a more difficult test.

The Louisiana Department of Education released student scores Tuesday for the 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.

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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.

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

“While we certainly would have liked to have shown growth during these times of transition, we understand that we must be patient as we move to the more rigorous standards,” Concordia Parish Superintendent Paul Nelson said. “We will work to show additional gains next school year and feel as though we will continue to show improvements.”

Monterey School seventh graders showed the greatest improvement on the iLEAP in the district during the April testing.

Seventh graders at the school scored 18 percentage points higher in social studies than last year’s seventh graders, with 96 percent of students scoring basic and above.

The same students also scored 17 percentage points higher in English language arts and 16 percentage points higher in science.

Monterey School and Vidalia Junior High School students showed the most significant increases in the district in LEAP scores.

Fourth-grade students at Monterey School scored 19 percentage points higher in math, with 99 percent of students scoring basic and above.

“We are very pleased that our changes in the elementary math curriculum are beginning to show results,” Nelson said.

At Vidalia Junior High School, 79 percent of students scored basic and above in eighth-grade science, up 14 percentage points from last year’s students.

Ferriday Upper Elementary third- and fifth-grade students showed significant decreases on the iLEAP test.

Third-grade students at FUE scored 21 percentage points lower in science than last year’s students and 15 percent lower in math.

In the fifth grade, 28 percent of students at FUE scored basic and above in science, down 32 percentage points from last year’s students.

On the LEAP test, 34 percent of eighth graders at Ferriday Junior High School scored basic and above on social studies, 32 percentage points lower than last year’s students.

“We are very concerned about the performance at our junior high schools,” Nelson said. “We will be working diligently to address some of the noted weaknesses.”

Nelson said administrators and district staff members plan to attend a series of trainings sponsored by the state education department to help develop strategies to assist the schools in upcoming changes to the state assessments.

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 about 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. School accountability scores are released later in the year.

Fourth-grade students who failed the LEAP may still advance to fifth grade if they make sufficient progress. Districts can issue waivers for those students demonstrating readiness to progress.

Eighth-grade students who fail will take a transitional ninth-grade year, including taking remedial courses at their high school campus.