- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 27, 2014

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Louisiana education officials say 69 percent of public school students scored at the “basic” or better level on standardized tests this year - no improvement from 2013, but state Education Superintendent John White noted that the tests are becoming more challenging as the state seeks to better prepare students for college.

Tuesday’s figures also show an increase in the percentage of students scoring at the “mastery” level in both English and math. That’s important as the state makes what White says will be a gradual, 10-year transition toward making the higher level the new target for schools to reach to earn an A grade under the state’s evolving accountability program.

By 2025, White said, the average student at a school will have to achieve subject mastery in order for that school to get an A rating. “There is not a school system in the state that is at that level today,” White said.

In English Language Arts, 27 percent of students performed at the mastery level or higher, compared to 26 percent in 2013. For math, 25 percent of students scored at mastery or higher this year. The department said that is a 2 point increase from 23 percent in 2013. Overall, the state “mastery” percentage was 24 percent.

Percentages didn’t change much from 2013 to 2014 in various subcategories of students. The number of students with disabilities who reached the basic level was up slightly but still below 45 percent; the number reaching “mastery” or above held at about 9 percent.

About 61 percent of economically disadvantaged students scored basic; roughly 16 percent, mastery. That was unchanged from 2013.

State-authorized charter schools held steady with 60 percent basic, about 15 percent mastery; Non-public schools accepting students with taxpayer-funded tuition had only 45 percent of those students reaching basic and 7 percent at mastery, but White noted the rate of improvement at those schools, 4 percent in basic and 2 percent in mastery, outpaced state public schools overall.

Today, in A-rated schools, only 45 percent of students reach the “mastery” level or above, according to figures released Tuesday, while the percentage for B schools is 27 percent; C schools, 18 percent; D schools, 10 percent; and F schools 6 percent.

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 that were adopted by Louisiana and other states.

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