Apr 17, 2012

BATON ROUGE, La. - Louisiana has significantly improved its high schools.  A near 10-point gain in the graduation rate over the last decade means tens of thousands of young adults walked the stage, when they might not have years before. Yet measures of college and workplace success reveal our high school graduates are not prepared to meet post-secondary and employer expectations.  Louisiana education leaders have said correcting this divide and ensuring all students, at every grade level, are on track to attain a college degree or succeed in a professional career is their highest priority.  Today, the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) announced three initiatives designed to support this objective, by making certain students have ample access and are mastering rigorous college and career ready courses. 


"The numbers tell us our students are improving, but we still lag behind the rest of the nation, particularly in high schools," State Superintendent of Education John White said.  "I’m confident our students can learn at higher levels and that our teachers can lead us there.  These three initiatives are critical to making sure our next generation is equipped to meet 21st Century college and workforce demands."


Today’s announcement by the Department centers on the following initiatives:


  1. ACT:  Every 8th-11th grade student in Louisiana will participate in the EXPLORE/Plan/ACT series, which will be funded by the state, beginning in the 2012-2013 school year.  This series of ACT tests will serve as a guide for teachers and families as to what each high school student needs in order to be prepared to achieve at high levels, starting in 8th grade.  The role of ACT in the school accountability system will be considered by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) later this year.    
  2. Advanced Placement (AP):  The state will provide funds to train approximately 350 teachers to teach AP courses.   Through a federal grant and a new investment of state dollars through 8(g) funding, Louisiana will fund 8,500 test administrations for low-income students and for any student taking a course that is new to a school.  A BESE committee approved 8(g) funding for this initiative today.  The measure of AP in the school accountability system will come before the state education board later this year.    
  3. Post-Secondary Coursework for High School Students:  While Louisiana is shifting to a system of course choice, funded through Minimum Foundation Program (MFP) dollars, the state will provide funding to institutions of higher education to continue offering reduced-tuition post-secondary courses.  The state will also encourage and support districts in applying for TOPS Tech Early Start dollars to support Louisiana Community and Technical College System (LCTCS) courses.  BESE approved funding for this initiative today and will consider the role of post-secondary courses in the school accountability system later in 2012.


"We must continue raising the bar, providing all our students with multiple and challenging pathways that broaden their opportunities and skills," BESE President Penny Dastugue said.  "I’m confident these measures, along with the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, will enrich instruction and advance the academic and lifelong success of our students."


Louisiana, along with 44 other states and the District of Columbia, has signed on to adopt the national Common Core State Standards.  The standards define the knowledge and skills students should acquire throughout their K-12 education careers in order to graduate from high school prepared to succeed in their post-secondary education and workforce pursuits.  In Louisiana, the new standards will be fully implemented in the 2014-2015 school year.


State-Funded ACT Series


Beginning next school year, the state will fund the cost of administrating a series of ACT tests to all public school students enrolled in grades 8, 9, 10, and 11.  Currently, students pay for testing, or in some cases, schools or districts may pay for students to participate in the ACT test.  Under this new initiative, the state will pay for a single administration of the ACT for each student.  For students qualifying for the federal free and reduced meal program, the state will fund two additional administrations of the test.


Furthermore, as prescribed by Louisiana’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act Waiver Application, the state intends to include student scores on ACT tests in a simplified school performance score, beginning in the 2012-2013 school year.  The ACT - a nationally-normed assessment - will account for 25 percent of the School Performance Score for high schools.  Additionally, schools will earn points for students who demonstrate growth throughout their performance on the series of ACT tests.


About 75 percent of Louisiana’s public high school graduates participated in the ACT test during their high school career.  This is up from 69.8 two years ago.  White said increasing participation in the ACT Series will yield improved student outcomes by:  1) providing an earlier assessment of student progress; 2) improving student readiness for college; 3) increasing the number of students who consider college; 4) increasing college enrollment and retention; and 5) improving workforce planning and career counseling information.


"ACT assessments provide us with the best possible indication of our students’ performance against the Common Core State Standards.  From a broader perspective these tests are the best measure of whether our students are on track to meet post-secondary and workforce expectations after high school.  Additionally, by administering EXPLORE as early as 8th grade and EXPLORE and PLAN consecutively until 11th grade, our teachers will have meaningful information to diagnose and address the learning needs of their students before they take the ACT in 11th grade," explained White.      


Advanced Placement (AP) - Improving Participation and Performance


Louisiana currently ranks 49th in the nation in Advanced Placement rankings.  Only 5.6 percent of Louisiana’s Class of 2011 graduated with a passing grade on at least one AP exam, compared to the national average of just over 18 percent.  Likewise, in the 2010-2011 school year, approximately 120 of Louisiana’s 400 public high schools offered an AP course.  White said policy changes and the funding approved by BESE today are devised to simultaneously and substantially increase AP opportunities and student participation. 


The allocation approved by BESE today will also allow up to 200 teachers in Race to the Top Districts to participate in College Board Summer Institutes.  In addition,more than 150 Louisiana teachers in districts with limited or no AP offerings, or districts seeking to expand AP in their schools, will have the opportunity to attend Laying the Foundation training.


In conjunction, proposed changes in the state’s accountability system would add bonus points to School Performance Scores when students participate in AP courses.   But more points will be given to schools when students demonstrate mastery of courses by passing AP exams.


"Research has indicated high school students who participate in AP courses are less likely to need remedial post-secondary courses and more likely to succeed in post-secondary course work," White added.  "In addition, these students are more likely to graduate from post-secondary institutions in four years.  Therefore, it’s critical that we dramatically increase AP and post-secondary learning opportunities for our students."  


Post-Secondary Coursework Options/Funding


Legislation recently approved by lawmakers and expected to be signed by Governor Jindal this week will allow public school students attending C, D, and F schools to enroll in state-funded online classes, post-secondary courses, and apprenticeships, starting in the 2013-2014 school year.  To support the development of this new initiative, the LDOE will utilize 8(g) dollars to provide $800,000 to directly pay university systems for the costs associated with offering students post-secondary courses and credit for their high school work. 


An additional source of financial support for districts and high schools is TOPS Tech Early Start funding, which is available for high school students who enroll in Industry-Based Occupational or Vocational Education Credential programs in top demand occupations. Participation in these programs as a high school student does not affect a student’s eligibility to receive a TOPS Tech Scholarship after high school. 


Schools will be recognized for student achievement in post-secondary courses through the awarding of School Performance Score points.






  • EXPLORE, which will be administered to 8th and 9th grade students and PLAN, which will be administered to students in 10th grade, are curriculum-based educational and career planning programs designed to measure achievement in English, math, reading, and science, as well as prepare students for their high school coursework and their post-high school choices.  ACT, to be administered to students by the state in 11th grade, is a curriculum-based assessment that evaluates 11th and 12th graders’ learning outcomes in English, math, reading, and science.  Test scores reflect what students have learned throughout high school and provide colleges and universities with information for recruiting, placement, and retention.
  • The ACT exam is scored on a scale of 1 to 36, and students receive a composite score, which represents an average of their reading, English, math, and science scores.  The ACT is designed to measure the skills and knowledge taught in the nation’s high schools and deemed essential for success in college and the workplace.  The test is administered to high school students in all 50 states and is utilized by most Louisiana colleges and universities to determine eligibility for admissions, scholarships, and placement in college courses.
  • In 2011, the state’s average ACT composite score increased by one-tenth of a point, from 20.1 in 2010 to 20.2 in 2011, keeping pace with the increase in the national average composite score, which also grew by one-tenth of a point, from 21.0 to 21.1.  
  • While Louisiana’s average composite score trails the national composite score, over the last ten years the state’s increase in this measure is six times the increase for the national average during the same time period.  Since 2001, Louisiana’s average composite score grew from 19.6 to 20.2, while the national average grew by only one-tenth of a point, from 21.0 in 2001 to 21.1 this year.   
  • Based on average composite scores, minority populations in Louisiana outperformed their peers in four out of five categories.  The average ACT composite score for African-American students in Louisiana is 17.5, compared to 17.0 nationally.  American-Indian students in Louisiana earned an average composite score of 19.2, compared to the average score of 18.6 earned by their peers across the country.  Hispanic students in Louisiana earned an average composite score of 20.4, which is significantly higher than the national average of 18.7 and the state’s overall composite score of 20.2.  And Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders in Louisiana earned a composite score of 20.2, compared to their peers’ score of 19.5.
  • The Laying the Foundation program is a division of the National Math and Science Initiative, and is dedicated to improving the teacher corps across the country. The program provides a comprehensive training program that includes STEM-focused Pre-AP and AP teacher training aimed at ensuring teachers have the resources and training they need to deliver rigorous, college-ready curriculum to their students. The program has demonstrated results in Louisiana.


Testing Schedule (Tentative)


State-Funded Assessment

Grade Tested



Grade 8

Two Week Window in November/December 2012
(Specifics to Follow)


Grade 9

March 19, 2013


Grade 10

March 19, 2013


Grade 11

March 19, 2013


 Advanced Placement


  • AP courses may be taught by site-based instructors, or schools may register to offer students courses through the Louisiana Virtual School (LVS), which is operated by the LDOE. 
  • Louisiana students graduating in spring 2011 had access to more than 30 AP courses.
  • In 2011, BESE adopted a policy requiring all schools to offer at least one new AP course in a unique subject area, beginning in the 2011-2012 school year.  In the 2012-2013 school year, schools must offer two AP courses, and continue adding a new AP course in a unique subject area in the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 school years.
  • The number of public high school students taking one or more AP exams has increased by 10 percent, from 5,140 in 2010 to 5,662 in 2011.  This includes an 11.5 percent boost in the number of African-American students taking AP exams.  Despite this growth, in 2011, only 5.6 percent of high school students in Louisiana earned a Qualifying, or passing score (3 or higher) on at least one AP test. 


Dual Enrollment and Industry-Based Certifications (IBCs)


  • Dual enrollment programs enroll qualifying high school juniors and seniors in college-level courses at local technical, community and four-year colleges, as well as in work skills courses at Louisiana Technical College campuses.
  • In the 2010-2011 school year, credit was awarded for 386 high school courses through dual enrollment. 
  • High school students across Louisiana can choose to pursue more than 50 Industry-Based Certifications, which are portable credentials recognized by industry and earned by an individual as a result of mastering knowledge and skill competencies.
  • From 2007-2008 to 2010-2011, dual enrollment has increased by more than 130 percent.  During this same time period, IBCs have nearly tripled. 




  • Louisiana ranks last in the nation in the percent of students growing up in a household where at least one adult has completed a bachelor’s or associate’s degree.  And according to Kids Count, 17 percent of the state’s children under 18 years old live in a home headed by a high school dropout.
  • For every 100 students entering Louisiana’s high schools, only 71 students graduate from high school in the traditional four-year time frame; only 49 of these high school graduates pursue some form of post-secondary education; and only 19 of these 49 college-goers earn a bachelor or associate degree within six years.
  • College Remediation Rate:  In fall 2010, 34 percent of first-time freshmen in Louisiana enrolled in college development (remediation) courses.


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