Public school exams undergoing sweeping changes

BATON ROUGE (AP) — A test that fourth- and eighth-graders have to pass for promotion is on the way out. It’s part of a series of

changes unfolding in how Louisiana measures what public students know.

The Advocate reported students in grades 4 and 8 have taken the first part of LEAP, which is being given for the next-to-last

year. Students will finish the exams next month.

In addition, those in grades 3, 5, 6 and 7 will take another skills test called iLEAP. That test will end after a final round

in 2014.

High school students in upcoming weeks

will take end-of-course exams, which have gradually replaced the

Graduation Exit Exam

that ended last year. But those tests will be revamped in 2015 as

part of a nationwide drive for more rigorous academic standards,

which take effect in 2014.

“It is a lot of change,” said Stephanie Desselle, who tracks public school issues for the Council for a Better Louisiana.

Put simply, the changes will affect most of the state’s roughly 700,000 public school students.

The LEAP test, it stands for Louisiana Educational Assessment Program, has been a symbol of the state’s drive to improve public

schools since 2000.

Fourth- and eighth-graders have to pass the math and English parts of the test, and meet other classroom requirements, to

move to the fifth- and ninth-grades.

Backers say the exams have accomplished what they were supposed to.

Critics tried for years in the Legislature to end the test or the requirement that students have to pass it for promotion.

State Rep. Pat Smith, D-Baton Rouge, has long criticized LEAP and its requirement that students pass the test to move to the

next grade. “I believe in general we can have rigor,” Smith said.

“But why we rely on testing a child to pass, just doesn’t compute,” she said.