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Louisiana is used to being near the bottom of national rankings in education. Annual changes to assessments and accountability will keep us there while further discouraging students, teachers and parents.

LEAP 2025 Vision is an initiative by the Louisiana Department of Education to raise expectations and change the way schools and districts are scored. Changes in accountability and assessments for students were scheduled to occur gradually over time and were supposed to become required in 2025. 

However, two major changes in accountability will go into effect for the assessment of the 2018 school year. Because of these hurried changes, school district performance scores across the state will dramatically drop and the number of F-rated public schools will rise.

The only thing more frustrating than a moving target is a moving target that is swiftly approaching.

The first change is the increase of the standard ACT score from 18 to 21. The average American student scores at a 20.8 on the ACT, and the average Louisiana student scores a 19.5, which includes both public and private school students.

The higher standard may seem fair, especially since admission to the University requires a score of 22 or higher. However, Louisiana students are not tested the same way as most other states. Less than 65 percent of high school graduates in America take the ACT, yet 100 percent of high school graduates in Louisiana and 16 other states take the ACT.

The remaining 33 states only test and provide score data for students interested in pursuing education, who are more likely to prepare for the exam and take it seriously. Louisiana’s average is a hodge-podge of motivated, unmotivated, college-bound and workforce-bound students.

The 100 percent policy was implemented in 2012 as a way to provide opportunities for more students interested in pursuing higher education. The policy was implemented with good intentions, but the ramifications are an inability to compare data and the discouragement of an entire educational system.

The LDOE will also change the standard for proficiency in assessments sooner than originally planned. For years “basic” has been deemed proficient on state assessments, which are the largest factor in school district performance scores. In an attempt to catch up with the majority of the nation, Louisiana will raise the standard to “mastery.” This change is comparable to moving the expectation of the average student from a C to a B.

While changes to the standards should be implemented, and Louisiana’s students and teachers are capable of reaching higher goals, the ramifications of quickly changing the schedule and assessments each year are disappointment and frustration. Annual changes in assessments and accountability make it difficult if not impossible for teachers to implement curriculum and see real, comparable results.

When you see positive change it inspires you to progress even further – just ask anyone who has lost a significant amount of weight. However, you don’t weigh yourself in kilograms one day and focus on how many Snickers bars you ate the next because there’s no way to compare those measurements.

Teachers need time to be able to properly prepare and adjust curricula to assessments. There must also be fair measurement to appropriately compare scores with other states and our own scores from year to year.

Our teachers and students, at the very least, deserve the time to adjust to assessments, implement improved curricula when scores reflect poor performance and accurately track success.

Breanna Smith is a 21-year old mass communication senior from Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

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