LEAP/iLEAP of Faith?

Reading the Fine Print Pastorek Omitted

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education meeting, held last week in Baton Rouge, was pride fully aglow with the revelation of the 2009 student accountability results.

Exceptional growth in most districts was reported, in some cases the growth in LEAP and iLEAP scores rising to double digits.

Hardly a skeptic was within earshot when Leslie Jacobs and Paul Pastorek shared data comparing performance of New Orleans schools pre Katrina vs. 2008. Congratulations came from all directions.

However, the dark clouds moving into that sunny picture were nowhere mentioned. A more careful evaluation of numbers contained on the Louisiana Department of Education web site reports on testing reveal a more troubling perspective than was presented.

If the objective of student accountability is to gain at least basic proficiency for all students tested, then the percent of student population below basic is an important benchmark.

One obvious conclusion is that statistics can be found to support a variety of conclusions depending upon how they are framed.

The percentage of students at each achievement level in 2009 who were below basic (Approaching basic + Unsatisfactory) amounted to 26%. This was an improvement from 28% in Grade 4 English Language Arts results or a 7% improvement.

In Grade 4 Math the number of students still below basic did not fare so well with 33% of students still below basic, as opposed to 30% in the 2008 reports.

For Grade 4 Science the percent of students below basic improved from 37% in 2008 to 31% in 2009. And, in Social Studies the 35% of students below basic in 2008 was reduced to 32% in 2009.

The State-run Recovery School District, while not comparing at all favorably with the state average, also showed improvement; as did the Orleans Parish School Board students.

In the Grade 4 ELA report, the RSD students below basic moved from 56% in 2008 to 49% in 2009; while the OPSB students improved from 13% below basic in 2008 to 10% in 2009.

The RSD Math students still below basic in 2008 amounted to 59% and that improved to 57%; while OPSB student improvement was from 19% in 2008 to 10% in 2009.

The results for Grade 8 LEAP tests also revealed that RSD trailed both the state and OPSB in percent of students below basic in all subjects.

In ELA the state averaged 35% of students below basic for the 8th Grade LEAP test. The RSD listed 65% below basic; while the OPSB showed 21% below basic in 2009. The results for 2008 in ELA revealed that the state average was 41% below basic, an improvement of 14.6%. The RSE scored 76% below basic in ELA in 2008 and improved 14.5% to 65% below basic. The OPSB student scores improved from 31% below basic in ELA in 2008 to 21% in 2009. This amounted to a 32.2% gain.

The Math scoring was better as well. The Grade 8 Math LEAP scores in 2009 improved 2.6% over the state going from 39% to 38%. The RSD Math LEAP component left 22% of OPLB students below basic in 2009. That was an improvement of 40% over the 37% of students below basic in 2008. RSD results were improved as well with the percent below basic being reduced from 82% in 2008 to 67% in 2009 (a reduction of 17%).

The GEE results for 2009 showed the state disappointing results. In 2008, the GEE ELA results left 28% of students below basic. The 2009 results found 38% fell below basic. The RSD results revealed improvement from 84% below basic in GEE ELA performance in 2008 going to 73% in 2009 (an improvement of 13%). OPSB students below basic in ELA GEE for 2008 composed 41% of all tested students. In 2009 that improved 19.5% to only 33% below basic.

In the GEE Math component the state tested population contained 36% below basic in 2008 and that improved 25% to only 27% still below basic. RSD GEE Math test-takers improved with 79% below basic in 2008 and 50% below basic in 2009, an improvement of 36.7%. OPSB students below basic in GEE Math went from 38% in 2008 to 27% in 2009, an improvement of 28.9%.

The results for iLEAP test-takers in 2009 reveal that the state average for students below basic is nearly half that of the RSD students in grades three through nine. The Orleans Parish School Board students below basic beat the state average by about 35% across the board in all subjects. The RSD below basic classified students are, on average, about 65% worse than the OPSB students in all subjects excepting 9th grade Match where there are 40% more RSD students below basic than in the OPSB.

(SOURCE: LDOE Web site, LEAP/iLEAP tables).

Don Whittinghill

LSBA Consultant

225-603-1415