Jul 16, 2015

African-American Students Achieve Fastest Progress

BATON ROUGE, La. – The Louisiana Department of Education today announced a record number of high school seniors earning scores of 18 or higher on the ACT, leading to more graduates entering college without needing to take remedial courses. Among seniors in spring 2015, 24,619 students earned a college-going score (18+), an increase of nearly 1,000 students from 23,660 in 2014 and an increase of more than 6,300 students from the 18,307 who met the mark in 2012.

The improvement comes after years of raising expectations for math and English in Louisiana, teaching to nationally competitive standards. This growth is also due to comprehensive high school policy changes the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) and local school systems began implementing in 2012, including an overhaul of the state’s accountability system, the creation of the Jump Start career education program, and expansion of Advanced Placement courses.

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.

The number of Louisiana students achieving qualifying scores at all levels of TOPS scholarships also grew. Nearly 1,000 more students achieved a TOPS score this year than did in 2014, and the number of TOPS-eligible scores has risen by 7,372 since 2012.

Additionally, the number of high school graduates enrolling in college has grown significantly from 19,826 in 2011 to 22,972 in 2014, representing a 16 percent increase.

This increase in ACT scores resulted in a 0.2 point rise in the state’s average composite score – now 19.4 in 2015 as compared to 19.2 in 2014 – as determined by seniors’ best score on the test. The “best score” method, used by colleges and universities for the purpose of admission and by TOPS for purposes of scholarship awards, calculates a student’s top score achieved any time the student took the test.

“Four years ago, BESE, the Department, and local school systems set out to increase the career and college opportunities for students. Raising expectations for all students is not easy but our students are showing they are as smart and capable as any in America,” said State Superintendent John White. “By providing access to more rigorous courses and tests for all students, we are seeing achievement increase across the board. Our state needs to keep raising its expectations if we expect to compete.”

“These encouraging numbers reflect our students’ continuing improvement in academic achievement,” said Chas Roemer, BESE president. “The combination of expanding access to the ACT and raising standards has given more Louisiana students the chance to show what they can do, and the results are inspiring. This important progress validates the hard work of students and educators across our state. We must continue raising expectations to ensure that our students are prepared to compete for any job or college placement opportunity."






Increase from
2012 to 2015

TOPS Tech (17+)






College-Going Score Not Requiring Remediation (18+)






TOPS Opportunity & Regional University (20+)






TOPS Performance & Statewide University (23+)






Flagship University (25+)






TOPS Honors (27+)






"It's exciting to see the fruits of our labor as a legislature and as Louisianans,” said Rep. Steve Carter, Chairman of the House Education Committee. “We set out several years ago to raise academic expectations and increase students' access to high-quality schools and courses. Our young people are reaping the benefits, gaining the knowledge and skills they need to pursue their dreams and be productive members of our workforce and society. I congratulate our students and educators on this tremendous accomplishment."

“These strong ACT results can be attributed to a refocused effort on student success over adult problems. The growth results directly from several specific strategic reforms we have insisted upon – implementation of comparable, interstate high standards and assessments; redirecting education process authority to place district operations in the hands of superintendents; creating an atmosphere of parental participation and choice; and, placing a strong emphasis on great teachers and ensuring a great teacher in every classroom," said Sen. Conrad Appel, Chairman of the Senate Education Committee. “Education is truly the gateway to a better life for all Louisianans and we maintain the firm belief that all students, without regard to circumstances, can learn and must be afforded a fair opportunity to learn. We will remain focused and fight for the strategies we have embarked upon. Our state and its youth are worth it.”

During the 2012-2013 school year, Louisiana became the 10th state to provide all high school students the opportunity to take the ACT at no charge. The ACT series of tests, given in 8th, 9th, 10th, and 11th grades to provide parents and students information on college and career readiness, is a central plank of Louisiana Believes, the state's plan to ensure all children are on track to college or a career.

In addition to providing all students with access to the ACT, the Department, BESE, and schools across the state have embarked on ambitious initiatives that have expanded opportunities for high school student. Since 2012:

  • BESE adopted a plan to raise expectations in Louisiana through higher standards. That work continues with the Louisiana Student Standards Review, a process approved by BESE in April, passed by the Legislature during the 2015 Legislative Session, and signed into law by the Governor. An expert panel of 101 educators and experts nominated by school districts, professional association, and advocacy organizations will review and develop expectations for Louisiana students that will prepare them for a successful transition to college and career.

  • The state re-made the high school accountability system to incentivize not just high school completion but also post-secondary achievements like career credentials and Advanced Placement credits.

  • Students now achieve TOPS and TOPS Tech by choosing either the Jump Start Career Diploma or the TOPS University Diploma. Every student graduates having taken a TOPS curriculum.

  • To support these diplomas, Louisiana has created dedicated funding streams in the MFP for career courses, dual enrollment courses, and other course choices.

Louisiana has also expanded on these initiatives to expand opportunity for historically underserved students.

  • Schools have created transitional 9th grade programs to serve students who otherwise would have been held back in 8th grade.

  • Act 833 allows diploma pathways for students struggling because of disabilities.

  • Students with significant disabilities (LAA 1) now can achieve a high school diploma.

This comprehensive package of high school policy changes resulted in increased opportunity for high school students:

  • Record Number of Students Completing High School: 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.

  • Record Number of Students Achieving Advanced Placement Credit: Louisiana’s high school students led the nation in 2014 with a 24.6 percent increase in the number of college credits earned on Advanced Placement (AP®) exams, increasing by more than 1,250 credits over results in 2013 - the greatest increase in state history.

  • Record Number of Students Entering College: 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.

For State and District ACT Average Composite Scores, please click here.

To view a PowerPoint Presentation, please click here.

# # # # # #