- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 29, 2016

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Louisiana’s latest push to improve student achievement will focus in part on why some of the state’s youngest students are failing to master basic skills.

In documents prepared by the state Department of Education, The Advocate reports (https://bit.ly/294PrpQ) elementary school leaders have expressed concern that students too frequently arrive in the third grade not prepared for success, and that there is not academic clarity in the early grades.

How students are faring in kindergarten, first and second grades and how their progress can be measured were among the topics during a meeting of a key education advisory panel called the Accountability Commission.

The panel advises the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, and in this case, the commission will submit a wide range of recommendations to BESE in December.

The review is part of the state’s plan to gradually raise the academic bar for public schools statewide.

Under current rules, students have to average the third of five scoring levels - basic - to win an A rating from the state.

The state’s long-term goal is to require students to average the fourth level - mastery - to earn the top rating.

Jessica Baghian, assistant state superintendent for assessment and accountability, said while the state has shown education progress in recent years, gaps remain, including students mastering fundamental skills in the early years.

Educators said there is a lack of an overarching, statewide measure of how students in kindergarten, first and second grades fare.

Having one, they said, could help ensure alignment across grade levels.

Baghian said school leaders also struggle to interpret the data available now, and state Department of Education officials are working to repair that.

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Information from: The Advocate, https://theadvocate.com

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