Louisiana students are steadily improving in their mastery of English language arts, math and social studies, according to the most recent LEAP 2025 scores released on Thursday.

Thirty-six percent of students in third grade through early high school scored at mastery levels, the new baseline for academic proficiency. Seventy percent of school systems in Louisiana improved their academic performance. The highest achievements were in the English exam, with 44 percent of test-takers scoring mastery.

“Louisiana students are reading and writing incrementally and steadily better every single year,” John White, state education superintendent, said in a teleconference.

White called the achievement a “fantastic accomplishment,” considering LEAP 2025 is based on standards that are just as rigorous nationwide.

Math performance improved, but only 35 percent of students have reached mastery. White mentioned the need to focus on content for students approaching middle school, where scores are below expectations.

“What that shows is that as math gets more complicated, unlike reading, our students are not keeping up as well,” White said.

Social studies was the weakest content area, with only 28 percent of students scoring mastery. The results, White said, show a lack of emphasis on the content instruction from educators and policymakers.

“The message that has been sent from Congress, and to a degree from our system here, is that social studies knowledge is not as important as if you can do math at basic level and read at a basic level,” White said.

The state is piloting an exam that combines social studies knowledge with ELA as a possible solution to the problem.

White applauded the state’s education “Zones,” like Calcasieu’s R3 Zone, for improving the state’s historically disadvantaged populations, including African American students, economically disadvantaged students and students with disabilities.

However, students learning to speak English are struggling to get ahead, White said.

“The challenge in front of us is how do we begin to train every teacher, as well as special education, in accommodating the needs of students who do not speak English at home,” he said. “And second, how do we develop programs for students that both nurture their home language and English concurrently?”

The Louisiana Department of Education will release additional specialized LEAP 2025 data on student growth and school performance later this summer and in the fall.

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