BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — National attention is being brought to a proposed change to Louisiana’s graduation requirements. The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education wants to help students who can’t pass the LEAP test – but some politicians believe it’s the wrong move.
BESE approved a policy in June to create an appeals process for students who are unable to pass the standardized state testing, or LEAP tests, in order to graduate. It then was sent out for a public comment period, which recently concluded.
U.S. Sen. John Kennedy took to the Senate floor this week to decry the plan.
“I think my governor and his team are wrong on this. They’re going to send us back to the dark ages,” Kennedy said.
There are eight states that require minimum standardized test scores to graduate. Louisiana is the only one that does not have an appeal procedure. At-large BESE member Belinda Davis said teachers approached her after the COVID waivers for the test ended, saying students that have English as a second language or a learning disability can struggle with the test.
“I started looking at education research, which basically points to the fact that standardized tests should not be the only thing that is used to measure student outcomes the way we’re using it in Louisiana,” Davis said.
The appeal will only apply to students with a high enough grade in their classes to graduate, and there are several steps to get the appeal. This includes retaking the test, remedial work and proving they have employability though earning an industry-based credential.
“Students still have to show us mastery of the content in the course, but we’re allowing them to do that with something other than a standardized test,” Davis said.
Kennedy accused the board of making this change to increase graduation rates to get schools better rankings. Davis said this is not the case.
Governor-elect Jeff Landry went so far as penning an op-ed in a Gonzalez paper over the summer against this plan. He believes lowering the standards for students will only harm them.
Davis said in other states, students were just as able to get jobs after graduation compared to kids who didn’t need the appeal. She also said she does not believe this policy change will impact most students in the state.
“It’s not going to do them any good to give them a diploma that they can’t read,” Kennedy said.
The House and Senate Education committees will be meeting to review the policy before it is implemented. If the committees don’t approve the policy, the governor will decide if he will accept the disapproval or allow the policy to go into place.