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Friday, August 22, 2014
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Test results up overall; voucher schools flat

Last Modified: Wednesday, May 22, 2013 5:17 PM

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.

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