Test scores up, down for Webster students

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The percentage of Louisiana students achieving “mastery” scores on 2016 standardized assessment tests for grades 3-8 showed a modest improvement, the state Education Department said Thursday; the overall percentage reaching at least a “basic” score increased as well.

In Webster Parish, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Dan Rawls says students soared in some areas and plummeted in others, adding that a preliminary study of scores shows they are about the same as they were for 2014-15.

“Preliminarily, we’ve got about the same scores as we’ve had in the past,” he said. “We’re going to have to dig through them. The database we get is very specific in what parts they did well on and what parts they did not do well on. Like I said, some are up and some are down.”

He says once school starts, a staff meeting will take place to go through the scores and see where improvements need to be made.

Webster Parish percentages were broken down by grade, subject and achievement level. They are as follows:

Third Grade

ELA: Advanced two percent, mastery 24 percent, basic 24 percent, approaching basic 23 percent and unsatisfactory 27 percent.

Mathematics: Advanced six percent, mastery 34 percent, basic 31 percent, approaching basic 18 percent and unsatisfactory 11 percent.

Science: Advanced four percent, mastery 17 percent, basic 37 percent, approaching basic 27 percent and unsatisfactory 16 percent.

Fourth Grade

ELA: Advanced four percent, mastery 34 percent, basic 30 percent, approaching basic 20 percent and unsatisfactory 12 percent.

Mathematics: Advanced three percent, mastery 30 percent, basic 29 percent, approaching basic 27 percent, unsatisfactory 11 percent.

Science: Advanced two percent, mastery 12 percent, basic 47 percent, approaching basic 26 percent and unsatisfactory 13 percent.

Fifth Grade

ELA: Advanced two percent, mastery 37 percent, basic 31 percent, approaching basic 20 percent and unsatisfactory 10 percent.

Mathematics: Advanced two percent, mastery 24 percent, basic 34 percent, approaching basic 27 percent and unsatisfactory 13 percent.

Science: Advanced less than one percent, mastery 10 percent, basic 44 percent, approaching basic 27 percent and unsatisfactory 18 percent.

Sixth Grade

ELA: Advanced three percent, mastery 29 percent, basic 36 percent, approaching basic 24 percent and unsatisfactory eight percent.

Mathematics: Advanced two percent, mastery 24 percent, basic 35 percent, approaching basic 28 percent and unsatisfactory 11 percent.

Science: Advanced three percent, mastery 17 percent, basic 36 percent, approaching basic 28 percent and unsatisfactory 16 percent.

Seventh Grade

ELA: Advanced seven percent, mastery 27 percent, basic 32 percent, approaching basic 21 percent and unsatisfactory 14 percent.

Mathematics: Advanced less than one percent, mastery 18 percent, basic 30 percent, approaching basic 36 percent and unsatisfactory 15 percent.

Science: Advanced three percent, mastery 16 percent, basic 35 percent, approaching basic 28 percent and unsatisfactory 18 percent.

Eighth Grade

ELA: Advanced six percent, mastery 37 percent, basic 28 percent, approaching basic 19 percent and unsatisfactory nine percent.

Mathematics: Advanced less than one percent, mastery 15 percent, basic 23 percent, approaching basic 31 percent and unsatisfactory 30 percent.

Science: Advanced less than one percent, mastery nine percent, basic 41 percent, approaching basic 27 percent and unsatisfactory 22 percent.

Even with improvements, education officials say achievement gaps remain unacceptably wide – with lower percentages of black students, students with disabilities and students from low-income households making high scores on the LEAP tests. Rawls says Webster Parish’s student makeup is about 72 percent free lunch or reduced lunch students, which means the parish has a high level of low-income students.

In a telephone news conference, State Education Superintendent John White said the test results – showing a rise in those achieving mastery from 33 percent to 38 percent – are encouraging, given that performance has improved even as the tests and standards have become more challenging. Still, he says the achievement gaps must be closed.

“They are unacceptable in an education system that should be the engine of change and upward mobility,” he said.

A student who scores at the “basic” level shows fundamental skills in subjects such as reading and math. “Mastery” is a level at which a student is considered ready for post-secondary school work.

The percentage of students achieving basic and mastery improved in math, English and science at almost every grade level, according to results released Thursday. White stressed that the results were achieved at a time of transition. Standards have been raised and tests also are being re-worked to reflect changes recommended by a state panel charged with altering earlier assessments tied strictly to the multi-state Common Core standards opposed by some.

Even with those caveats, White considered the results encouraging.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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