A series of news releases from the Louisiana Department of Education shows strong gains in ACT and AP exam scores among high school seniors, which is being attributed to new measures such as the raising of standards, more availability of college courses in high school, and an effort to promote vocational education. Proponents of educational reform will take these findings as evidence that it’s working.
“Record Number of Louisiana Seniors Achieve College-Going ACT Scores”: http://www.louisianabelieves.com/newsroom/news-releases/2015/07/16/record-number-of-louisiana-seniors-achieve-college-going-act-scores
From the news release: “Among particular student populations, African-American students saw the greatest ACT gains. Forty percent more African-American students earned a college-going ACT score this year than did in 2012, growing from 5,202 in then to 7,287 now – an increase of more than 2,000 students.”
“Louisiana Students Achieve Record Number of Advanced Placement Credits”: http://www.louisianabelieves.com/newsroom/news-releases/2015/08/05/louisiana-students-achieve-record-number-of-advanced-placement-credits
This news release also showed some disaggregated findings: “African-American students earned nearly 215 more qualifying scores on AP® exams in 2015 than in 2014, increasing from 707 in 2014 to 920 in 2015, a 30 percent increase. Since 2012, the number of exams with qualifying scores has increased 146 percent, from 374.” A previous Policy Analysis Report examined Louisiana schools’ underserving of African American students: http://www.ncte.org/policy-analysis-initiative?reportid=230
“Report: Louisiana Is Number One State in Annual ACT Gain”: http://www.louisianabelieves.com/newsroom/news-releases/2015/08/26/report-louisiana-is-number-one-state-in-annual-act-gain From the news release: “In 2014, the state’s four-year high school graduation rate increased for the fourth straight year to a record high of 74.6 percent. Nearly 1,600 more students graduated in 2014 than in 2013.” Further: “The number of recent high school graduates who enrolled in college has grown significantly, with 22,972 members of the class of 2014 enrolled in college, an increase of 16 percent over the class 2012.”
These findings have implications for student financial aid. TOPS (Taylor Opportunity Program for Students https://www.osfa.la.gov/TOPS.htm) is a popular financial aid program for Louisiana residents who attend in-state colleges and universities. Because the program is merit-based rather than need-based, critics have argued that the program doesn’t do enough to close the achievement gap for disadvantaged students. The improved performance of students, especially underrepresented students, will qualify them for more TOPS dollars, but Louisiana must attend closely to high-need student populations if TOPS funding continues to be distributed using only a merit-based formula.
Several NCTE statements may be relevant to these findings, such as:
“Tracked for Failure/Tracked for Success”: http://www.ncte.org/positions/statements/trackedforfailure
Standards for the Assessment of Reading and Writing, Revised Edition (2009):
2015 NCTE Education Policy Platform: http://www.ncte.org/positions/statements/2015-policy-platform