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Louisiana School Board Association

News & Announcements

Turning Heads on Test Results - Tuesday, December 11, 2007
President-Elect Noel Hammatt, yesterday, presented to the Governor-elect Bobby Jindal education transition team, findings of his study of NAEP test results. Readers of the Louisiana Boardmember’s past three issues might find his report familiar as they were presented in depth over the past four issues. What the testing by the U.S. Department of Education reveals, when evaluated in depth, is that Louisiana’s best students (full-pay, white 4th grade test-takers) score 231 on the NAEP reading test. The national average is 233. What the testing reveals for Black 4th grade test-takers is equally surprising in that the free lunch, black student are only one point below the national average for such students. These gaps are similarly found at the 8th grade level. Hammatt presents a compelling view that testing results are not being wisely used by education or political leaders about the nation. Averaging of scores that are designed to measure individual student achievement can often mask the performance of schools. His findings underscore the importance of early education in closing the gap between high and low performing students. The preponderance of low-income students in the total Louisiana student body is coupled with the nation’s largest proportion of students enrolled in private schools to skew the performance record against Louisiana school performance. Private school attendance nationally amounts to about 7% of all enrolled students. In Louisiana, 17% of students attend private schools. Since these schools require payment of substantial tuition, it is likely that high performing students are being diverted into private schools and the effect is to lower public school performance records. Close correlations of parental income and student achievement are observed in all grade testing. LSBA leadership has presented these findings as part of an effort to bring about broader understanding of the positive accomplishment of public schools, while continuing to emphasize that much must be done if the gap is to be closed. Current U.S. News & World Reports magazine rankings of top high schools showed that three Louisiana schools (Baton Rouge High, Caddo Magnet High, and Bolton High) rated silver awards, while 15 other Louisiana high schools were awarded bronze. In addition, Benjamin Franklin High School, in New Orleans, announced that seventeen (17) seniors, the most of any school in the country, have been selected as National Achievement Semifinalists in the 44th annual National Merit Scholarship Program. Such performance underscores the fact that positive performance is not unusual in Louisiana schools, but that much remains to be accomplished. Preparations for school in a universal LA4 is part of the appeal being made by LSBA. Enhancement of early childhood development at the three-year-old level would, according to Hammatt’s presentation, yield even greater returns than the positive correlations to good test results reported for LA4. The need for LSBA membership to accentuate the positive aspects of their stewardship is apparent in the face of efforts from some state-wide organizations to demonize public education for widespread failure. Hammatt’s presentation carries that message strongly to the incoming administration’s transition team.