BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana’s public school student performance on key standardized tests plunged in the last school year, according to state education data released Wednesday that provides the first glimpse of how students fared during the coronavirus outbreak.
The LEAP 2025 exams measure what students know in math, English, science and social studies. Students in grades 3 through 12 took the tests in the spring after they were canceled a year earlier because of the pandemic.
The Advocate reports the state’s goal is for students to reach the fourth-highest achievement level, called mastery. The number of students reaching that level or above in grades 3 through 8 fell to 29%, down from 34% two years ago. High school students achieving mastery dropped from 37% two years ago to 32% this time.
Jim Garvey, the longest serving member of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, said he expected the decline in scores to be twice as large amid back-to-back interrupted school years.
“I would say the reduction in scores are not nearly as bad as I was expecting,” Garvey told the newspaper.
Statewide, only one school district improved overall: Jackson Parish, which grew one percentage point. The district with the sharpest decline was Evangeline Parish, where the number of students reaching the mastery benchmark dropped 10 percentage points.
The decline in this year’s results showed up across all grade levels, subjects and subgroups, according to the state Department of Education. The number of students that scored unsatisfactory — the lowest of five levels on LEAP 2025 — rose by five percentage points.
The drop in scores mirrors trends in other states.
“This LEAP 2025 data will be invaluable in guiding our instructional, policy and resource allocation decisions as we recover and accelerate from this unprecedented interruption to student learning,” state Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley said in a statement announcing the results.
Carrie Monica, executive director of the education advocacy group Stand For Children, said Louisiana has to address learning loss, with a priority on in-person classes. She said in a statement that the data “clearly shows that student achievement was higher when students had in-person instruction.”
Classrooms in Louisiana closed nine weeks early in March 2020 during the early stages of the pandemic. The 2020-21 school year featured a mixture of in-person classes and distance learning, ending with about 75% of students attending classes in person.
Educators said online learning posed huge problems for a state where two-thirds of students live in low-income homes and internet access is patchy, especially in rural areas.