Test results up overall; voucher schools flat

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A state Education Department analysis of the latest standardized test results for public school students

in grades three through eight shows the state continues to make incremental overall improvement with a long way to go.

The number of students performing at grade

level in math, science, English and social studies on the spring tests

nudged up

to 69 percent from 68 percent in 2012. It marks a 9 percent

improvement, but more than 30 percent continue to underperform.

The numbers showed that New Orleans schools

taken over by the state from the long-troubled local district after

Hurricane

Katrina making the most improvement among all districts in the

state, moving from 51 percent to 57 percent of students performing

at grade level.

Education Department figures showed

improvement was stronger in school districts with Head Start programs or

the state's LA4

early childhood education program for pre-kindergartners. Charter

schools' growth was better than other public schools' growth

by about 2 percent.

The figures released Wednesday also included

performance of students attending private schools with state-funded

tuition vouchers,

although the performance was hard to gauge overall because results

were not posted for numerous schools with small numbers

of voucher students.

White said overall the performance of the

voucher-supported students in private schools in the state scholarship

program improved

by less than a percentage point. However, he noted that there were

only 500 test-takers in the 2011-12 school year compared

to the 2,000 in the current school year, the first year in which

the voucher program, which was piloted in New Orleans, was

expanded statewide.

The Education Department said seven New

Orleans area private schools in which voucher students performed poorly

will no longer

be allowed to accept new voucher students: Life of Christ

Christian Academy, Faith Academy, Upper Room Bible Church Academy,

Bishop McManus, Holy Rosary Academy, Conquering Word Christian

Academy and Conquering Word Christian Academy-Eastbank. The

department said about 140 students who had planned to attend those

schools with vouchers this fall will be directed to other

schools.

"Their schools had a record of low performance that we are not going to tolerate," White said.

Most of the schools that will no longer be allowed to accept new voucher students have been in the program since it began

in 2008.

Roughly 8,000 students have been approved

for vouchers with more than 130 schools participating in the program

this year.

It remains unclear how the state will fund the program in light of

a recent state Supreme Court ruling that last year's funding

method, through a formula meant for public schools, violated the

state constitution.

Exactly how badly they performed wasn't

clear, in most cases. For instance, no results were available in any

subject for third-graders

at any of the schools except Bishop McManus, where more than 80 of

100 voucher students were performing at below grade level

in math, science and social studies.

Standardized tests in fourth and eighth grades are known as LEAP tests and are used to determine whether students will be

promoted to the next grade.

Statewide, fourth-graders who met the promotion standard this spring numbered 43,616 or 79 percent of all those who took the

promotion test in the spring. Last year, the number was 44,775 or 80 percent of those taking the test in spring of 2012.

Eighth-graders who met the promotion standard this spring numbered 36,841 or 74 percent. Last year, the figures were 36,163,

or 73 percent of all spring 2012 eighth-grade test takers.

For promotion, those taking the LEAP test

must score at least "basic" — deemed performing at grade level — in

either English

language arts or mathematics and no worse than "approaching basic"

in the other subject. Students who do not earn these scores

must attend summer school or are retained.