LPSS plans to strategize after decline in student's science, math scores and mastery performance on LEAP test

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Posted at 8:58 PM, Aug 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-07 22:07:12-04

Initial LEAP testing data released this week showed widespread declines in students achieving mastery across subjects around the state, including in Lafayette Parish, according to The Advocate.

On Wednesday, the Louisiana Department of Education released the first round of data for LEAP 2025 exams taken this spring. The standardized test, given to 3-8 grade students and high school students in select courses, measures students’ mastery of select learning concepts in English, math, science and social studies.

Performances are graded as unsatisfactory, approaching basic, basic, mastery and advanced.

In the 2020-2021 school year, the average percentage of 3-8 students statewide who achieved mastery or above dropped to 29% after being at 34% in 2019. Learning losses cut across all grade levels, subjects and subgroups, state education officials said.

This was the first time statewide standardized tests were given since the COVID-19 pandemic began after the 2020 exams were canceled.

The Lafayette Parish School System had a three-point decline for 3-8 grade students, dropping from an average of 38% to 35% students achieving mastery. With high school scores factored in, it was a two-point drop.

The district maintained its performance in English at 46% scoring mastery or higher, while math dropped from 42% to 37%. The science mastery score declined from 33% to 29%, while social studies only lost 1 percentage point, with 28% of 3-8 students reaching mastery or above on the 2021 tests.

LPSS outperformed the state’s mastery average in all categories and experienced less loss in all categories than the state did on average. Lafayette Parish outranked three-fourths of the 71 school districts for the percentage of students that achieved mastery on average and recorded less mastery loss between the 2019 and 2021 LEAP exams than three-fourth of the schools.

Mark Rabalais, district chief academic officer, said the district takes the losses seriously but also was encouraged by areas where schools maintained their previous performance or grew compared to the state and other districts.

“There’s something to be said about maintaining in a time of absolute uncertainty,” he said.

Students lost months of learning in spring 2020, which teachers attempted to make up while covering new material during the 2020-2021 year, and many students shifted between hybrid and full in-person attendance or went virtual. The pandemic, coupled with natural disasters in the region, yielded an unprecedented year for education, he said.

For the 2021-2022 school year, all schools will be open with in-person instruction.

“It’s one piece of data," he said. "It in no way reflects all the good, hard work our teachers, principals, everybody put into last year. It’s easy to look at it on a page and say, ‘We didn't grow or we dipped,’ but it’s another thing to know how much went into maintaining and really trying to sustain what was already in place.”

One key to recovering lost learning, Rabalais noted, is to create more opportunities for targeted learning and remediation.

The district is working with teachers and administrators to build in more one-on-one and small group time throughout the day, through increased focus on remediation breakouts and intervention time, and add tutoring slots before and after school, Rabalais said.

Continued investment in summer school options will be another facet of the plan. This summer about 2,500 students were tapped for summer school to remediate expected learning gaps, he said.

While the district has broad strategies, closing learning gaps is an individualized conversation; the circumstances of the specific campus to the individual child need to be considered, Rabalais said. There’s significant diversity across Lafayette’s schools, from students’ socioeconomic backgrounds to their learning needs, and that factors into planning, he said.

“We’re trying to be real respectful of the hardships and trials that we all faced and knowing it continues to be a heavy lift to make progress in these times,” Rabalais said.

Twenty-four Lafayette schools had gains in the number of students reaching mastery in at least one subject, even if they experienced a dip in their overall average. Schools saw the most growth in English language arts, with 16 schools raising the percentage of students achieving mastery and above. Another seven schools held steady in at least one subject.

Acadian Middle, Broussard Middle, Carencro High, Myrtle Place Elementary and Southside High had growth in the average percentage of students achieving mastery and above, while Alice Boucher Elementary, Carencro Middle, Northside High and Woodvale Elementary held steady at their 2019 score.

Some schools struggled more than others. Cpl. Michael Middlebrook Elementary, Duson Elementary and Westside Elementary had double-digit drops in the average percentage of students scoring at mastery or above. Westside and Middlebrook had 11-point dips, while Duson had a 10-point drop.

Rabalais said the district is meeting with administrators and school-based teams to discuss their strategic plans for the year and using the LEAP data as a baseline for planning.

Their aim is to set actionable goals for each nine weeks and the year as a whole to shepherd student progress along. Interim progress measurements, like standardized module exams and LEAP pre-tests, will be important for gauging success and pivoting teaching approaches during the year to have the most impact, he said.

“As a school they need to know the initiatives they have in place are being effective," he said. "If not, we need to change the course of action sooner than later, say in the second nine weeks as opposed to next year. The whole idea is we’re going to continually review student performance, student progress and make those adjustments and changes throughout the year."

Parents concerned about their child’s LEAP performance should consult their teachers and administrators for a more in-context assessment. Learning declines could be from the normal adjustment to a change in school, like the shift from middle to high school, or from lost learning time linked to school closures or a hybrid learning schedule, Rabalais said.

“People are expecting a silver bullet to come," Rabalais said. "But it takes time, it takes effort, it takes hard work and planning and I can’t overemphasize how hard our teachers worked and administrators worked last year, and how hard they’re going to continue to work this year. We’re proud of them. We’re proud of our schools.”

By 2025, students must average at mastery for a school or district to earn an A-rating.

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