By Nicholas Munyan-Penney and Charles Barone
Read the full report here.
Louisiana is one of the first four states to be approved to participate in the Innovative Assessment Demonstration Authority (IADA) under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Districts participating in the state’s pilot are free of federal requirements that the same summative assessments be administered in math and English Language Arts (ELA) in grades 3-8 and that all students in the state, with some exceptions[i], participate in the same statewide assessment.
Louisiana’s innovative assessment pilot has its origins in efforts to better align classroom instruction in English Language Arts (ELA) with state academic standards and evidence-based reading instruction to provide more equitable opportunities for students to demonstrate their learning. The new assessment will build on the state’s existing “LEAP 2025” assessment system by creating “LEAP 2025 Humanities,” an interdisciplinary (i.e., ELA and social studies) assessment that will consist of three interim assessments and a shorter summative assessment. The interim assessments will allow students to engage background knowledge recently learned in the classroom, an aspect that LDOE believes will improve reading instruction based on a solid body of evidence showing the importance of content knowledge in reading comprehension.
Once LEAP 2025 Humanities has been scaled statewide, local education agencies (LEAs) can choose between administering: the LEAP 2025 ELA and LEAP 2025 Social Studies; or, LEAP 2025 Humanities. Those districts that elect the humanities assessment will then choose three of five end-of-unit assessments that will be administered throughout the year followed by a common summative assessment, which will be substantially shorter than traditional year-end assessments. State accountability scores will be determined through a combination of student performance on all four assessments from throughout the year.
The pilot is starting with middle schools, then will expand to elementary and high schools in subsequent years of the pilot. The end goal is that all students in Louisiana will be assessed using a test that best reflects the curriculum and instructional model of their respective schools.
LEAP 2025 Humanities has some significant potential benefits as well as some prospective shortcomings.
Opportunities. LEAP 2025 Humanities has the potential to:
- Combine the measurement of both ELA skills and content knowledge, an approach based on a solid body of scientific evidence that could improve the quality of instruction in ELA;
- Level the playing field for students from historically disadvantaged groups by eliminating the effects of any gaps in background knowledge; and
- Provide educators with actionable data throughout the year through interim reports that are directly related to what students are already learning in the classroom.
Risks. However, the assessment also has a couple of inherent risks:
- Different LEAs will be using either different tests or different permutations of items, making it difficult if not impossible to compare results across all schools and districts;
- Currently LEAP 2025 Humanities is aligned to the ELA Guidebooks 2.0 curriculum. Aligning assessments to a single curriculum will advantage students in schools using ELA Guidebooks 2.0, potentially exacerbating inequities between districts using curricula of different quality. Amending the assessment to align with additional high-quality curricula used by school systems, the state’s long-term plan, will also be a significant hurdle.
Read the full report here.
[i] ESSA allows an alternate assessment for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities. The law and accompanying regulations cap the use of alternate assessments at 1% of all students statewide although a number of states have applied for and received waivers of the 1% cap.