One of the bright spots for Louisiana in the latest installment of the nation’s report card is the performance of African-American students in reading and math.
While Louisiana students overall finished between 44th and 49th nationally, the state’s African-American students were at or near the national average in three of four categories when compared to black students in other states.
They finished 23rd in eighth-grade reading compared to their black peers, 28th in eighth-grade math and 32nd in fourth-grade math, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP.
All three were improvements over previous tests in 2017, including an 11-point gain in eighth-grade reading.
The gains are especially striking since the state has the second highest percentage of black students in the nation, and those students typically score well below white students in key subjects.
“We are doing better today with our challenged populations that we were just a few years ago,” said Jim Garvey, a Metairie attorney and 11-year veteran of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
“And I think that it is because of our constant dedication to raising the bar, raising the expectations,” said Garvey, who was re-elected to BESE on Oct. 12.
Leslie Jacobs, a former BESE member who helped launch the state’s latest bid to improve schools, said the gains by black students stem from changes that rarely win lots of attention.
“I suspect our standards and our curriculum are pretty well aligned with NAEP,” she said, a reference to the nation’s report card.
“There has been a lot of research that curriculum really matters,” Jacobs said. “What you ask students to do in the classroom really matters.”
Classrooms have undergone major changes in recent years, including tougher academic benchmarks that began with Common Core and were later changed to carry a heavier state imprint.
In addition, more of the state’s 69 school systems have adopted a high-quality curriculum that aligns with those standards for teaching and learning, according to the state Department of Education.
School districts have also trained and supported their teachers to use the curriculum as a way to improve student learning.
Linda Johnson, who served on BESE from 1999 to 2011, said the state’s focus on black students, those from low-income families and other “subgroups” is paying off.
“A lot has to do with the curriculum materials we have in place,” Johnson said. “A lot has to do with the emphasis we put on subgroups.”
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Source: The Advocate