LEAP Testing to be Scrapped|Southern Education Desk
3:36 minutes (6.59 MB) Download
Many Louisiana educators say a new set of standards will push students to higher levels of achievement.
The state is scrapping a long-standing test for fourth and eighth graders.
The Louisiana Educational Assessment Program, or LEAP test, will be replaced in three years.
The new tests will align with the interstate Common Core program.
Eighth Grade Students at Ouachita Junior High
These tests have been an important barometer of student achievement in Louisiana since 1999.
Students must achieve a state designated benchmark of “basic” in math and English LEAP tests to be promoted to ninth grade.
But in three years, eighth-graders will be held to different standards - measures connected to widely accepted benchmarks, the so-called Common Core of educational subjects.
Ouachita Junior High Principal, Marsha Baker, says the new mode of testing will involve trial and error.
“It’ll be a learning and a growing process for us to get to where we get to understand the ins and outs of the new program. I’m understanding that it has more to do with a work-ready type curriculum, which I think is fine, but I don’t think every student falls into that category. There are still kids who fall into more of a liberal arts type curriculum.”
Louisiana is one of more than forty other states that have signed onto the Common Core standards.
The new interstate program will replace tests designed by individual states. Most of the exams will be done online. In English, curriculum and tests will focus on informational texts, rather than on literature; math examinations will be narrowed down to one or two key areas.
Louisiana Department of Education spokesman, Scott Norton, says it will be a significant change.
“The new standards are more focused and won’t cover as much content at each grade level, and that will allow a more focused curriculum. They are higher. They’re more rigorous. And we believe they’re well written so they are clear.”
Acting Superintendent of Union Parish schools, George Cannon says the time is right to change the state curriculum and its tests.
“All of these programs are built with a shelf-life, as they should be, because things don’t stay the same. Part of that is that even though considerable progress has been made under LEAP and the state’s school performance over the last several years, it’s not where most people want it to be. There’s still a lot of criticism that the kids at various grade levels don’t have the skills they need to be competitive in the 21st century.”
The new examination regime will involve more tests: two practice tests in the first half of the year, and two real tests toward the end.
Scott Norton says the new standards will foster an environment which better prepares children for adult life.
“We believe that common core state standards, which will be realized in Louisiana through a new version of the state curriculum, that’ll be based on those standards along with training for teachers and other pieces of the reform, will ultimately yield a better education.”
But some educators are approaching the plan with caution.
Jackie Walters is Ouachita Junior High’s curriculum coordinator.
She wants the new curriculum to offer students various ways to succeed.
“I hope they’ll be tested in a way that students can answer different – like, students have different verbal abilities, or some kids do well on multiple choice, some kids do well on writing. So, I hope that there’s a variety of types of questions so that students can have some kind of success on different kinds.”
Principal Marsha Baker says the worth of the core curriculum and its tests will ultimately lie with how the students approach them.
“I just want the kids to be able to experience success, you know, no matter what level they’re on. Every kid learns at a different level. And we need to be looking at the growth of the students. And if you can show growth in the student, then I think we’ve been teaching.”
The first round of core curriculum tests will begin in the 2014-2015 school year.