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Jul 13, 2010 9:03 AM by Sharlee Barriere

Study: Students in Private School Pilot Score Low

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - A pilot plan backed by Gov. Bobby Jindal
that uses state tax dollars so certain students can attend private
schools is producing low test scores, a new study shows.
The pilot program stems from a 2008 state law that provided $10
million for up to 1,500 students in troubled New Orleans public
schools to attend private or parochial schools. Backers call the
tuition payments "scholarships" and a way out of dead-end public
schools. Opponents call them "vouchers," and public school
leaders say they rob their schools of vital state aid.
The review, was conducted by Leslie
Jacobs of New Orleans, who served on the state Board of Elementary
and Secondary Education from 1996-2008. She was one of the most
influential voices in public education circles, and a key leader of
Louisiana's latest push to improve public schools.
During the 2009-10 school year, 1,113 children from kindergarten
through fourth grade took advantage of the tuition payments to
attend one of 32 non-public schools taking part.
According to Jacobs' study, 240 third- and fourth-graders were
tested this year. Third-graders took iLEAP, which is a skills test,
while fourth-graders took LEAP, which is designed to make sure
students master basic skills before they move to the next grade.
No state tests are given to students in kindergarten, first- and
second-grades.
Results show that fourth-graders getting state-paid tuition
scored significantly below their counterparts attending public
Recovery School District schools in English, math, science and
social studies.
In English, 29 percent of students scored "basic" or above
compared to 48 percent of RSD students. In math, 27 percent scored
"basic" or above compared to 53 percent of RSD students.
Third-graders in the program also scored well below their RSD
counterparts in English, math, science and social studies. In
English, 35 percent scored "basic" or above compared to 49
percent of RSD students. In math, 28 percent of third-graders
earned a rating of "basic" or above compared to 44 percent of RSD
test takers.
"Parents should be given data on how those schools are doing,"
Jacobs said.
The 2008 state law, she said, made no such requirement and
parents assume the private schools are better.
Jacobs, a former New Orleans mayoral candidate, said schools
also should be required to demonstrate improved academic
performance to stay in the state program.
State Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek said it is too
early to draw conclusions from Jacobs' report. Pastorek also said
it is up to parents to decide whether the state's
scholarship/voucher program is right for their children.

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