LEAP scores show progress and challenges for students

(WAFB) - The results are in for Louisiana students from the 2017 Spring LEAP testing. These standardized tests measure how many students in 3rd through 8th grade are proficient in subjects like English, math, and science.

The Louisiana Department of Education says statewide, 42 percent of students scored at the top two levels in English. That's up 5 percent from 2015. However, scores in math and science were slightly lower than last year at 32 percent and 24 percent respectively. State Superintendent John White said in a conference call with reporters that while there is progress, there is room for improvement when it comes to STEM subjects, especially in science,
where students will face new standards next year.

"Good improvement over the last couple of years, steady performance over the last year, but not nearly the level of performance that we should want in science for our students," said White.

Overall, scores vary drastically from parish to parish. Within the 9News viewing area, the Ascension Parish School District had the highest scores, with 48 percent of students scoring top marks across all topics. St. Helena Parish School District had the lowest, with 16 percent, although that was a 9 percent increase over 2016.

Looking more closely at districts within East Baton Rouge Parish, scores vary from 12 percent proficiency in the Baker School District to 54 percent in the Zachary School District.The East Baton Rouge School District came in with 27 percent overall proficiency, not including the recovery school district. EBR Superintendent Warren Drake says he's disappointed in his district's scores.

"I think the test was a little more difficult across the state, so we mirrored what the state did, but I think there are other factors that played into this," said Drake.

Drake says one of those factors could have been a switch to computer only testing. He says ongoing flood recovery could make it difficult for students to practice with computers at home, and resources in schools are still limited due to rebuilding efforts. White, however, says the LEAP scores from flood affected parishes indicate the flood did not affect student scores.

"We do not see a substantial impact on flooded parishes," said White. However, White notes that a more in depth analysis of the flood's impact on individual schools will be presented to Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) in August.

Drake says he has no doubt the flood affected student performance.

"I'm not an excuse person," said Drake. "Thirty percent of my staff was flooded. I'm talking teachers and students and parents. When you're talking about 30 percent of people living somewhere else and many of them are not back in their homes right now, it is absolutely without a doubt the flood had a tremendous impact on this school year."

The LEAP scores also revealed another big challenge across the state. Students the state described as "historically disadvantaged," such as those living below the federal poverty line, fall far behind their peers.

Students considered not economically disadvantaged had a proficiency rate of 52 percent, while those who fell below the federal poverty line showed a 25 percent proficiency. There are similar gaps when the numbers are broken down by race, disability, and students with limited English skills. White says closing that gap will be a big mission for educators in the coming year, with some schools receiving targeted gr ants to help address the issue.

For more information on the scores, click here. Below is a detailed breakdown of the 2017 LEAP Spring scores.

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