This week across Louisiana, students in the 4th and 8th grades will be taking the LEAP test. It's a controversial standardized test that covers four areas: English, math, science, and social studies. Students must score "basic" on English or math, and they need to "approach basic" on all other sections to pass. If not, they have to take summer school and pass the exam before being allowed to advance. You can see a practice version of the test here. While students in Louisiana took the LEAP test the previous school year, BESE allowed each district to decide whether or not they wanted the test count due to the problems associated with Katrina. This year the scores count for everyone. I remember when my daughter was in the 4th grade. The entire school year was in preparation for the week of the LEAP exam. After the students took the high-stakes test, the rest of the year was spent watching movies and playing games.
As New Orleans has become the testing ground for charter schools, people will be watching these test results closely. Earlier in 2003, the Department of Education studied 6000 4th grade students and found that children in charter schools performed worse in both math and reading. Following a New York Times article about the lower test scores in charter schools, Secretary of Education Rod Paige issued a statement against the findings. It is no secret that Bush and his administration are fond of the charter school model. It puts the schools in the hands of for-profit private companies and reduces government.
I predict that the charter schools in New Orleans will score better than the other public schools, and people will argue that nationwide we ought to privatize all of our schools. But the test scores in Louisiana won't tell the whole story. Many charter schools do not accept special education children. Charter schools hire only certified teachers, while the public schools are often forced to hire non-certified teachers due to the teacher shortage. Plus, some charter schools only accept "gifted" children, or they take students who score the highest on tests, such as Lusher, where my children attend. So now I'm going to sit back and wait for the test scores to come out, and then point back to this posting as evidence to my prophetic abilities.