Grades 3-8 Test Scores Are In

New Orleans Flat; State Flat

The Louisiana Department of Education (LDE) has released the 2014 test scores for grades 3-8. The percent of students performing Basic or above remained unchanged from 2013. This is the first year since Katrina that New Orleans did not improve.

  • The state average remained the same at 69% Basic or above.
  • New Orleans (RSD & OPSB) remained the same at 63% Basic or above.
  • OPSB went down 2 points; RSD remained the same; and Type 2 charters grew 5 points.

Percent Basic or Above – Grades 3-8

District 2013 2014 Change
69% 69% 0
All New Orleans
63% 63% 0
RSD – N.O.
57% 57% 0
84% 82% -2
Type 2 charters – N.O.
73% 78% 5

New Orleans ranking dropped by 1

  • In 2014, New Orleans (RSD & OPSB) is ranked 46th out of 69 districts (tied with Jackson Parish) in the percent of students performing Basic or above.
  • Last year, New Orleans was ranked 45th out of 69 districts (tied with Concordia and Monroe).

Comparing New Orleans to Other Large Urban Districts

New Orleans continues to outperform East Baton Rouge and Caddo parishes in the percent of students Basic or above but remains behind Jefferson Parish.

Percent Basic or Above – Grades 3-8

District 2014
Jefferson Parish
New Orleans (OPSB & RSD-N.O.)
East Baton Rouge (EBR & RSD-B.R.)

Congratulations to Jefferson Parish, which increased by 1 point.

Transitioning to Common Core  (Warning: Policy wonk discussion ahead!)

There is a lot of confusion and misinformation about how Louisiana is transitioning to Common Core, the PARCC tests, and new accountability standards.

There are two distinct changes underway in Louisiana:

  • Phasing in new tests aligned with the Common Core standards
  • Phasing in tougher accountability standards for schools

Phase I: Tests that reflect new Common Core standards

Standards reflect what we want students to know and be able to do. In 1996, Louisiana adopted standards that formed the basis for the LEAP and iLEAP tests from 1999-2013.

In 2010, Louisiana adopted new standards that are more reflective of what students today need to be career and college ready. These standards are called the Common Core. They require students to be able to read and understand more text and data than the previous standards, and they cover fewer concepts in math each year but expect deeper understanding of those concepts. View FAQs on Common Core.

This year, LDE revised the LEAP test to be more aligned with the new Common Core standards. So, for example, this year’s LEAP test had questions that required students to read more text and integrate more data in their answers.

Were the tests more difficult?

Schools and educators were very worried their performance would fall with the new tests, but LDE’s goal was to keep the difficulty (or rigor) of the test the same. Although the skills and knowledge tested (the content) were different, the overall difficulty of the test was not changed. In other words, it was equally difficult to earn a Basic this year as it was last year. The content was just different. (The ACT and SAT test different things but colleges compare these scores based on difficulty all the time.)

While the state and the city stayed the same in the percentage of students performing Basic and above, there was a lot of variation from 2013 and 2014 in the percent of students performing Basic or above by subject, by grade, and by school. Some schools and teachers did a better job adjusting to the new standards than others.

Transitioning to PARCC

Next year, Louisiana will transition from LEAP and iLEAP to new tests designed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers – or PARCC. PARCC is aligned with the new Common Core Standards and will allow Louisiana to compare the performance of its students to students from across the country. LDE is hoping that the transition to PARCC, which will be fully aligned to the Common Core, mirrors this year’s transition to a revised LEAP, where scores overall remained about the same.

NAEP Alignment

The conventional wisdom is that performance will fall with PARCC and a fully aligned Common Core test. LDE thinks the transition to PARCC will go smoothly. What explains the different forecasts?

LDE believes the original design of the LEAP tests puts the state in a good position. When the LEAP tests were being designed back in the 1990’s, the legislature passed a law requiring the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to make LEAP as rigorous as NAEP. NAEP (the National Assessment of Educational Progress) is a national test and is given every other year in grades 4 and 8 in English and math.

In general, student performance on LEAP and NAEP are close.

Comparing Louisiana’s Performance on LEAP and NAEP

2013 TEST
Percent Basic or Above
Percent Proficient (NAEP) or
Mastery (LEAP) or Above
Grades Tested
4th and 8th English and math
3rd through 8th all subjects

Why is this relevant? PARCC will also align its performance standards with NAEP, so it is LDE’s hope that the performance levels on the PARCC tests will have a similar level of rigor as this year’s LEAP test and prior years’ LEAP tests.

Why the “Freeze” on School Accountability?

Last year, there was concern that schools might have trouble adjusting their instruction to the new standards. As a “safety net,” the state agreed, and adopted policy, that if the distribution of school grades went down, then the state would grade schools on a curve in 2014 and 2015 so as to keep the percentage of schools earning A’s, B’s, C’s, etc the same. Given the steady results, it is doubtful that LDE will need to use the curve across the board this year, as the percent of students scoring Basic and Mastery remained relatively even with last year. LDE is hoping the transition to PARCC will be as smooth, but they will have the “freeze” on school accountability in place if needed.

Phase II: Raising the Bar

In addition to the adoption of the new Common Core standards, the state is changing the definition of proficiency – what is considered grade level performance – from a score of Basic to a score of Mastery. In terms of school accountability, this change is the big one.

When Louisiana began school accountability in 1999, the goal was that by 2009, on average, students would be performing at Basic or above. The new school accountability goal is that by 2025, on average, students in schools rated ‘A’ will be performing at Mastery or above.

This increased expectation will be phased in over the next decade and will start having an impact on school performance scores and letter grade calculations beginning in either 2016 or 2017*. Each year, schools will be expected to have more and more students at the Mastery level to maintain the same letter grade. This year is the last year that grade level performance will be defined as Basic; next year the standard moves to Mastery, and 2015 will be the new baseline year against which all future changes in school and district performance will be measured.

Moving to Mastery

Louisiana is one of the lowest performing states in the nation, so it should come as no surprise that the percent of students performing at the Mastery level is low. It is going to be a challenge to move students to Mastery. Educate Now! believes our schools and students will rise to the challenge and is looking forward to reporting each year an increasing number of students performing at the Mastery level.

Percent Mastery or Above – Grades 3-8

Jefferson Parish
New Orleans (OPSB & RSD-N.O.)
East Baton Rouge (EBR & RSD-B.R.)

Notes and Reports:

* A bill is pending in the Louisiana Legislature that would postpone this change in accountability from 2016 to 2017.

View the 2014 Test Scores Release from the Louisiana Department of Education.

District Reports

Spring 2013 to 2014: State and District Comparison (Percentile Ranks)
Spring 2010 to 2014: State and District Comparison (Basic & Above)
Spring 2014 LEAP Grade 4: State/District Promotional Standard Report
Spring 2014 LEAP Grade 8: State/District Promotional Standard Report

School Level Results

Spring 2014 LEAP Grade 4
Spring 2014 LEAP Grade 8
Spring 2014 iLEAP Grade 3
Spring 2014 iLEAP Grade 5
Spring 2014 iLEAP Grade 6
Spring 2014 iLEAP Grade 7