Published: January 6, 2005
Standards and Accountability: This year, Louisiana received the second-highest grade in standards and accountability.
The state has a well-established and comprehensive accountability system. Clear and specific standards exist in English, mathematics, and science in all grade spans. Social studies/history standards are clear and specific for middle and high schools.
The state is one of only 12 that have standards-based exams at the elementary, middle, and high school levels in each core subject. The state also uses a variety of test items—multiple-choice, short-answer, and extended-response questions—in English and other subjects to measure students’ performance at all grade levels.
Louisiana publishes student-achievement data on school report cards and assigns ratings to schools based, in part, on test results. It provides help and administers sanctions to schools labeled low-performing. And it rewards improving or high-performing schools.
Efforts to Improve Teacher Quality: Louisiana is the top-scoring state in this category, receiving the only solid A for its efforts to improve teacher quality. The state has established an impressive teacher-testing framework, starting with written tests that candidates must pass before certification and including performance-based evaluations of teachers once they are in the classroom.
The performance-based system, the Louisiana Teacher Assistance and Assessment Program, was recently revised. It continues to consist of classroom observations by a state-trained assessment team. But this school year, teachers must also complete a performance-assessment portfolio as part of the program. In addition, the program provides at least two years of mentoring support for all new teachers. Even before that point, a candidate to be a high school teacher must complete at least 31 hours of coursework in the primary area he or she plans to teach, and 19 additional hours in a secondary subject area. The state’s middle school teachers must complete minors in two of the core content areas.
Louisiana also has been among the most aggressive states in holding districts and schools accountable for the quality of their teachers. The state’s accountability system rates districts, in part, on the number of fully certified and out-of-field teachers they employ. Teacher-qualification data also are included on school report cards.
Similarly, the state has instituted an accountability system to judge the performance of its teacher education institutions. That system is based on a variety of measures: results from teacher-certification tests; graduates’ ratings of their satisfaction with their programs; and the ratings of graduates’ mentor teachers on the quality of the programs in preparing novices according to state standards for teachers. The state is piloting an additional component that links the test-score growth of each graduate’s students to his or her teacher-preparation program.
School Climate: Louisiana earned the second-lowest grade of any state in the school climate section this year. That’s largely because indicators of student engagement, parent involvement, and school safety from the National Assessment of Educational Progress place the state near the bottom of the rankings. The state also scores poorly on the school facilities indicators. Louisiana is one of only nine states that neither provide money for school construction nor monitor the condition of school facilities. More points are lost because Louisiana does not provide information about class size, parent involvement, or school safety on school report cards. On the plus side, the average class size for elementary school classes in Louisiana is 18.9 pupils, lower than the national average of 21.2.
Equity: Louisiana receives the sixth-highest grade for equity. According to the state’s wealth-neutrality score, which measures the relationship between state and local funding and the property wealth of districts, the state has only slight inequities related to local-district wealth. Louisiana ranks 10th out of the 50 states on the McLoone Index, and eighth on the coefficient of variation—two other measures of finance equity that show the state has smaller funding disparities across districts than in most other states.
Spending: Louisiana increased its spending almost 9 percent from the prior year, to $7,349 per pupil in school year 2001-02. That figure still falls below the national average, but almost 29 percent of students in the state attend schools in districts that spend at least the national average per pupil. That’s better than 22 other states. Louisiana ranks 29th on the spending index, a comparative measure of the 50 states and the District of Columbia on their levels of education funding. The state falls well below the national average of 3.8 percent in the proportion of its total taxable resources spent on education, at 3.1 percent.
Vol. 24, Issue 17, Page 119