More Louisiana High Schools Get A's, Tougher Standards Ahead

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Increases in graduation rates and ACT scores are among factors state education officials are citing as the number of Louisiana high schools earning an A in the state's accountability system jumped from 10 percent last year to 23 percent this year.
         Statistics released Thursday also show improvements in students' "end-of-course" test performance and signs of better preparation for post-high-school education — a so-called "strength of diploma" index. It includes factors such as more students earning advanced placement credits and more taking part in dual enrollment programs that enable students to take college courses while still in high school, earning high school and college credit.
         Thursday's figures cover Louisiana schools that serve grades 9-12. Forty of those schools earned an A; 50 earned a B; another 38, a C.
         Thirty-five schools earned a D, while 13 received an F.
         In an afternoon news conference, state Education Superintendent John White said the state made changes in the grading system to reward schools that demonstrate progress in helping lower-achieving students.
         While White lauded the results, he also reiterated that the overall grading system is about to get harder, with tougher standards being phased in over the next 10 years.
         "Our norm has to be full readiness for the next stage of education," White said.
         Scores from standardized tests released in recent weeks demonstrate that most students have not achieved a level that the state considers "mastery" of subject matter, meaning many students are not fully prepared for advancement.
         Meanwhile, critics of the letter-grade system continue to question whether it's a true measurement of school's performance.
         Scott Richard, executive director of the Louisiana School Boards Association, questioned the use of "progress points' awarded to schools that, according to the department, showed improvement in math and literacy performance among students to struggled in previous grades.
         "The use of progress points could mask a true picture of college and career readiness," said Richard, who has called for a third-party review of the school accountability system.
         – by AP Reporter Kevin McGill
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