Ascension students make LEAP gains

Staff reports

DONALDSONVILLE – More Ascension Parish public school students scored at the top level, according to a recent report released by the Louisiana Department of Education. The 2009 results also show significant gains in the number of Ascension students passing LEAP and GEE exams.

One of the major focus areas of the district has been to challenge the district’s top students to score at the highest performance levels. This focus has paid off with an increase in students scoring Mastery and Advanced in several areas for a second straight year, the school system said in a release.

The data shows an increased number of high school students scoring at the highest performance level, Advanced, in all four categories scored. In both math and science, high school students increased four percentage points. In English/language arts, high school students increased three percentage points and one point in social studies.

In the Mastery category, high school students increased by five percentage points in English/language arts as well as science and two percentage points in social studies.

Eighth graders were not to be out done showing increases at the Advanced level in three of the four categories scored. In science, eighth graders showed a whopping seven percentage point increase and another six percentage point gain in math. Eighth graders also increased by two percentage points in social studies.

In math, eighth graders scored a four percentage point increase in the Mastery category. They also raised their scores three percentage points in both English/language arts and social studies.

In science, fourth graders increased six percentage points and one percentage point in both social studies and English/language arts in the Advanced category, the highest performance level.

“Our teachers and administrators have worked diligently to implement key initiatives in ASPIRE and Benchmark Assessments. Because of their efforts with these programs, we can be sure that our students are being actively engaged to bring them up to not only meet but to exceed high academic standards,” Ascension Parish Public Schools Assistant Superintendent Patrice Pujol said. “Today’s results provide us with a confirmation that our district’s initiatives are succeeding.”

ASPIRE is a computer software tool that holds thousands of exam questions that teachers have created. In addition to district-wide assessments, the software also gives teachers the ability to create exams for day-to-day classroom tests.

This was the first year where students in sixth through 11th grade took quarterly benchmark exams across the district. The data will be used to track a student’s progress throughout the school year and eventually his or her school career.

Evaluating the exam results will allow the district to identify areas in the curriculum that need more or less attention as well as individual students who may not be grasping the subject and need more instruction.

The state department’s report on test scores went on to show that while there were slight dips among Ascension Parish fourth graders in math and social studies, there were large gains in the overall performance of Ascension students who scored proficient in all four categories. The proficiency scores include all those students who scored Basic, Advanced or Mastery on the state’s high-stakes GEE exams.

Leading the way were the eighth graders who excelled in all four categories including a seven percentage point increase in social studies. In English/language arts, eighth graders as well as tenth and eleventh grade students increased a substantial six percentage points, while fourth graders grew by two. Math scores were up five percentage points for eighth graders and rose by three percentage points for tenth and eleventh grade students. And in science, tenth and eleventh grade students had a sizeable six percentage point increase, while eighth graders jumped up by three.

Ascension Parish Public Schools Superintendent Donald Songy also praised the teachers and administrators for their dedication to the students.

“Our teachers and administrators are to be applauded for the commitment they make each and every day to assure that our students are receiving the highest quality of education. The impact our teachers have on our students’ lives is truly remarkable. They are the ones who are assuring that our students are continuing to perform at the highest possible level,” Songy said.

Songy also praised Pujol and the School Improvement Department staff for their leadership in developing the district’s improvement plan and helping schools to implement the ASPIRE and Benchmark Assessment initiatives.