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Louisiana Raises Expectations for Students

• Patricia Levesque

LAv2 Proficiency Matters


For years, Louisiana has been raising expectations for its students. And state education leaders are consistently pushing to better inform families about the readiness of their students for the high expectations of college and career opportunities.

Earlier this week, Louisiana State Board of Education voted to continue raising the rigor for students. This action will help ensure students have demonstrated a thorough understanding of grade-level content and are ready for college-level coursework or the workforce when they graduate.

Each state in our nation sets its own academic requirements for reading and math, and its own passing scores on state tests to determine if students truly are proficient in the subjects. In some states, test scores accurately reflect proficiency. In others, they do not because passing scores are set too low.

Louisiana’s new proficiency expectations are aligned with student performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) which is considered the gold standard for measuring student proficiency. The difference between NAEP and individual states’ proficiency expectations are wide and varied. This discrepancy is called a “proficiency gap.” Previously, Louisiana had low proficiency expectations resulting in a proficiency gaps of 45 – 55 percentage points.

For example, in 2013 results Louisiana’s state-administered tests indicated that 77 percent of fourth-grade students were proficient readers. However, NAEP results from that year found only 23 percent of fourth graders had achieved reading proficiency. In other words, 54 percent of Louisiana fourth graders thought they had the reading skills needed to be on track toward college and career readiness when, in fact, they did not.

Brigitte Nieland, Vice President of Program and Workforce Development and Director of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI) Education and Workforce Development Council, explained how low expectations can impact students and how raising proficiency cut scores on state assessments will make a difference.

“Louisiana’s current performance goal ensures neither college nor workforce readiness,” she said. “The adoption of the cut scores encompasses a goal to address this by ramping up expectations – from Basic to Mastery – by 2025.”

The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, State Superintendent of Education John White and Louisiana leaders have again raised the bar to reflect students’ true mastery and knowledge of the subjects. These are not easy decisions, but they are necessary to ensure the future success of Louisiana children.

Requiring more of students will always be harder than requiring less. But Louisiana education officials have demonstrated a strong commitment to raising their proficiency expectations and creating an education system where every child masters the knowledge and skills necessary to be successful.

Visit ExcelinEd’s website for more facts, graphics and sharable content. Join the conversation online with the hashtag #ProficiencyMatters.

About the author

Patricia Levesque @levesquepat

Patricia is the Chief Executive Officer for the Foundation for Excellence in Education. She served as Governor Jeb Bush’s deputy chief of staff for education, enterprise solutions for government, minority procurement, and business and professional regulation. Previously, Patricia served six years in the Florida Legislature in the Speakers Office and as staff director over education policy. Contact Patricia at