St. Mary elementary kids beat La. peers on LEAP tests

High school students have to play catch-up

St. Mary public school students generally outperformed their peers across the state on spring 2018 LEAP standardized tests. But, as the state accountability program raises standards, St. Mary high school students have some catching up to do.
Students in grades 3 through 8 are tested in three categories: English, math and social studies. School test scores are ranked in five categories: Unsatisfactory, Approaching Basic, Basic, Mastery and Advanced.
The Mastery level has become more important as Louisiana has raised the standards for schools. By 2025, schools will have to have students performing at the Mastery level to achieve an A grade under the state’s school evaluation program. Currently, the threshold is Basic performance.
In grades 3 through 8, St. Mary schools placed more students in the Mastery and Advanced categories in four of six grades in English, math and social studies.
In English, only St. Mary sixth-graders (31 percent Mastery or Advanced compared to 34 for the state) and eighth-graders (41 percent to 45 percent) trailed the state.
In math, St. Mary third-graders (41 percent to 42 percent) and fourth-graders (33 percent to 38 percent) trailed the state, but the older elementary students here did better than the students across Louisiana.
In social studies, fourth-graders (23 percent to 24 percent) and sixth-graders (24 percent to 25 percent) lagged the state.
After reviewing this year’s score release, Superintendent Leonard Armato said in a press release:
“The acceleration of more rigorous learning standards and corresponding testing measures has allowed our students to show remarkable academic gains across core content areas. I am especially excited to see such positive results from one year to the next in response to the rise in expectations for students.
"St. Mary teachers, administrators, and instructional personnel are to be commended for their dedication in meeting the challenge and ensuring that consistent and aligned instruction exists in each classroom every day."
High school students are tested in English I, English II, algebra I and geometry. St. Mary students beat the state in algebra (46 percent to 40 percent), but trailed in the other subjects.
Statewide, results from the 2018 LEAP tests showed 43 percent of students overall in grades 3 through 12 demonstrated Mastery or better in English; 33 percent in math.
Social studies testing for grades three through eight showed 27 percent of students earning a Mastery score.
While Tuesday’s data focused on performance, state Education Superintendent John White said in an online news conference that more data, demonstrating how students in public schools have progressed, will be coming out next month.
Students’ performance and their improvement are both factors in the way schools are evaluated, White stressed.
White said the continued gap between overall results and those of various disadvantaged students remains a problem. “It’s not getting wider but it’s not closing,” he said.
For instance, Tuesday’s figures showed 34 percent of students in grades three through eight scoring at the mastery level overall in English, math and social studies, the percentage for those deemed economically disadvantaged was 26 percent.
For black students it was 21 percent. In both cases it was a 1 percentage point increase from the year before. In both years, 11 percent of students with disabilities in those grades achieved mastery scores.
White said the figures show the need for improvement in social studies and mathematics. He said there already have been gains in social studies achievement. Part of the problem with math, he said, has been the state’s difficulty in recruiting and retaining teachers with strong math teaching skills for higher grades.
He said a pilot program with more intensive instruction in algebra has shown progress.
Missing from Tuesday’s data were figures on science performance. White said that’s because the state education board authorized new standards only a year ago. The department said a science assessment test was being “field tested.”

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