Last week's announcement that more than three quarters of all Louisiana public schools made academic progress last school year is, first and foremost, a testament to your efforts and those of your students. Our schools face both ambitious goals and significant challenges. This year, they surmounted both. It was a victory for the future of our state. Congratulations.
To see a complete summary of the results, you can find a presentation here. Our schools achieved last year's mission. Now we look ahead to the mission in years hence. Today, fewer than one in five Louisiana students achieve a college or university degree within ten years of entering high school. This is too few if we are to prepare students for a world in which most jobs will require some education after high school. We owe our students more rigorous preparation for life after high school.
Our assessments, as you know, will gradually change, starting with changes to this year's writing prompts on ELA assessments. For sample test items, click here. Over the next three years in fact, our assessments will be completely remade, such that by 2015 we will use ELA and math assessments developed through the PARCC consortium. See sample PARCC test items here. Schools statewide are gearing up for a shift toward greater test complexity and demonstration of evidence in response to tests.
Louisiana is also shifting its accountability system to align with the Common Core standards. No longer will scores of "approaching basic" or "fair" be given points. The ACT and AP tests will have greater weight in the system. And schools that make significant progress with students below grade level will receive a bonus. For a summary of the 2013 system, see this document.
This new system and these new tests represent the next mission. While the accountability system is designed to not drop schools' letter grades if they maintain the same level of performance on tests, the tests will gradually be more difficult. See a PowerPoint here for an overview of the new system and an understanding of some of its specifics.
Our state owes you its gratitude for your accomplishments. Hundreds of thousands of students are on a better life path because of your work. Now we challenge ourselves once again. It will be a long journey, and we are just at the start. But the reward will be, as it is today, preparing more kids than ever before for a productive life beyond high school. I thank you for achieving that critical mission, and I look forward to more greatness in the years to come.
As always, thanks for all you do for our children,
Louisiana Department of Education