Parents pleased with LEAP result improvements

Thursday, May 23, 2013 - 10:00am

LEAP scores increased alongside the difficulty of the test, pleasing parents of elementary and middle school students.

The East Baton Rouge Public School System fared below average on this year's LEAP tests. Only 62 percent of its students performed at the "basic" level or above. But that number was better than in years past. Many parents credit the district for its hard work.

"We think that Superintendent (Bernard) Taylor is doing an excellent job of continuing to move the East Baton Rouge Parish School System in the right direction," said Belinda Davis, a parent and leader of the One Community, One School District advocacy group, "and we think that we will continue to see more improvement, at even greater rates, in the future."

The state average was students meeting their grade level expectation was 69 percent this year, a one percent increase from 2012. East Baton Rouge schools improved by two percent, ranking tenth-best in the state in that regard. Ascension, East Feliciana, and Iberville parishes, as well as the Zachary and Central school districts, also placed in the top ten for year-over-year gains.

The percentage of students meeting their grade-level expectations in East Baton Rouge Parish rose each of the last five years, climbing from 54 percent to 62 percent.

Since so much of a school's success is based on the LEAP results, parents say they noticed a greater emphasis on test preparation in daily classroom activities.

"It put a lot of responsibility, not just on the teachers, but on the children, as well," Pandetta Chapman stated. "And parents' involvement (increased), making sure that everybody is in combination or in collaboration together to making sure that these scores increased."

The Department of Education said 2013 was the first year of an incremental overhaul of the LEAP tests, making them more challenging so they fall in line with tougher, national standards.

"It's a great idea, and improving is what we want to see," Joyce Haynes mentioned. "But standardized tests are being used wrong."

Haynes is president of the Louisiana Association of Educators, one of the largest teachers' unions in the state, and noted critic of LEAP exams. She said that half of a teacher's evaluation is based on his/her student's test results. As a result, the best parts of the classroom experience are often tossed aside.

"We want our children to be problem-solvers, we want them to have higher-order thinking, not just finding a multiple-choice answer on a test," Haynes said. "And if that's all we want to achieve, then that's all we're going to get."

Everyone will have a better sense of our schools' success when their final grades are released. While those include additional factors, they tend to rise and fall at the same rate as LEAP scores.

Zachary and Central scored first and second in the state, with 89 percent and 86 percent of their students at grade level and above, respectively.

Other notable scores, in alphabetic order:

Ascension Parish - 79 percent

Assumption Parish - 66 percent

City of Baker - 42 percent

East Feliciana Parish - 58 percent

Iberville Parish - 65 percent

Livingston Parish - 81 percent

Pointe Coupee Parish - 58 percent

St. Helena Parish - 37 percent

St. James Parish - 71 percent

St. John the Baptist Parish - 62 percent

Tangipahoa Parish - 60 percent

West Baton Rouge Parish - 70 percent

West Feliciana Parish - 82 percent

In its first year of testing, only 37 percent of Baton Rouge students in the Recovery School District scored at or above their grade level.

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