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Orleans Parish Schools See Another Drop In Test Scores

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Orleans Parish officials say this is the fourth year of stagnant or declining test scores.

Orleans Parish school officials are bemoaning yet another drop in the district's standardized test scores. When you look across all grade levels and subjects in Orleans Parish, just 27 percent of students tested at grade level in 2019.

"This is the fourth year of stagnant or declining test results," Orleans Parish school superintendent Henderson Lewis wrote in an emailed statement.  "My administration will be working with schools to explore how we can start moving forward."

Students in Louisiana public schools and voucher schools in grades 3-12 are tested at the end of the school-year in English, math and social studies. Data released by the Louisiana State Department of Education (LDOE) shows that in 2019, the percentage of Orleans Parish elementary and middle school students testing at grade level, or "mastery," in English fell one percentage point — to 32 percent. Elementary and middle school scores were stagnant in math (24 percent) and social studies (21 percent). 

More concerning - fewer students scored at "basic" or above in English or math — a step below "mastery" - according to data compiled by Orleans Parish school officials.

The percent of Orleans Parish high school students testing at grade level fell too — in English I ( down 6 percentage points), Algebra ( down 3 percentage points) and U.S. History ( down 3 percentage points). 

There were two bright spots: more students tested at grade level in English II (up 2 percentage points) and Geometry (up 4 percentage points).

"Two main priorities must be to stem teacher attrition, which last year was at 30 percent, and determine what is needed to better train and develop teachers on the use of high-quality curricula,” Lewis said.

Last year, more than 900 teachers left Orleans Parish schools.

Test scores are high stakes for schools in Orleans Parish, where virtually all public schools are charter schools. Charter schools can lose their right to operate if their test scores drop too low.

Meanwhile, in Jefferson Parish, students performed a little better than last year. Just under a third of Jefferson Parish students tested on grade level in all their subjects (32 percent) — that’s slightly below the state average of 36 percent.

“We are pleased that more students mastered content this year than in previous years,” Jefferson Parish Schools Superintendent Cade Brumley said in an emailed statement. “We believe we will continue to see increases in the years ahead as our system implements our strategic plan focusing on student outcomes and opportunities.”

Brumley was brought in to replace former school superintendent Isaac Joseph, who was ousted over stagnating test scores. Joseph died in early June.

Statewide, students made marginal improvement in English and math, but stayed stagnant in social studies. But state school officials are concerned with a growing achievement gap for students learning English (ELLs) and students with disabilities. 

“The results released...show our students and educators are making gains year over year," State Superintendent John White said in a press release. "The results also illuminate the challenges ahead, in particular the needs of struggling students who are often falling behind as math concepts get more complex or because they have not mastered the fundamentals of reading.”

The LDOE said the state will continue to focus on improving reading instruction for students in the early grades, strengthen social studies instruction and improve the state's supports for English learners. 

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