ACT scores rise for 2nd straight year in Louisiana

The Times-Picayune, July 16, 2015—ACT scores slightly improved this year in Louisiana public schools, marking the second straight year of performance growth. On average, Louisiana students scored a 19.4 on the 36-point scale, up 0.2 from last year, according to data released Thursday (July 16).

Last year’s score was up from the previous year’s 19.1. The slow-but-steady progress shows a state push toward higher expectations has paid off, state Education Superintendent John White said.

“It reflects the extraordinary teaching and learning that has gone on in our schools,” White added.

The ACT, one of two nationally used college-entrance and scholarship exams, is a big deal in Louisiana. All public high school students must take it, and they receive TOPS college scholarships to in-state schools based in part on their scores. Schools, too, are judged partly by ACT scores.

Importantly, the test is a way to rank Louisiana’s students against the rest of the country. Historically, the state has lagged the national ACT average, and last year was no different — Louisiana’s 19.2 lagged the nation’s 21.

Though this year’s national scores have yet to be released, White said he’s confident Louisiana is making strides. “I think you are going to see our state really rising up and competing with [other] states,” he said.

More students earn college-going scores

Just as colleges do, the state calculates composite scores using the best scores students receive, no matter how often students take tests. In Louisiana, a score of 17 or higher ensures two free years of community college through the state’s TOPS program, though a student must score an 18 to avoid remedial classes. A score of 20 or better lands a four-year college scholarship.

This year, 39,752 Louisiana seniors took the ACT, slightly down from last year’s 39,773. Of those:

  • Almost two-thirds scored an 18 or above.
  • About 45 percent scored a 20 or better.

The state also released number increases, which show gains or declines in students achieving certain scores over time. When comparing the 2014-15 school year to the 2011-12 academic year, 6,312 more students received an 18 or better this year, data show.

Officials attributed the performance gains to raised expectations for English and mathematics — Louisiana adopted the Common Core state standards in 2010 — the overhaul of the state’s accountability system, expansion of Advanced Placement courses and the state’s Jump Start career education program.

“By providing access to more rigorous courses and tests for all students, we are seeing achievement increase across the board,” White said. “Our state needs to keep raising its expectations if we expect to compete.”

Some of the jump may be attributed to an increase in test-takers during some testing years. Still, the number gains are something to be proud of, White has said.

African-American students have particularly made gains, he noted, with 7,287 earning an 18 or better, up from 5,202 three years ago.

Louisiana students meeting ACT benchmarks, 2011-2015

2011-2012 2012-2013 2013-2014 2014-2015 Increase from 2012 to 2015
TOPS Tech (17+) 20,466 25,073 26,846 27,838 7,372
College-Going Score Not Requiring Remediation (18+) 18,307 22,088 23,660 24,619 6,312
TOPS Opportunity & Regional University (20+) 14,129 16,027 17,101 18,039 3,910
TOPS Performance & Statewide University (23+) 7,429 8,433 8,938 9,524 2,095
Flagship University (25+) 4,296 5,006 5,359 5,649 1,353
TOPS Honors (27+) 2,435 2,938 3,170 3,339 904

System-level results

Though St. Tammany’s 21.5 average score remained unchanged from last year, the parish again scored the highest of any system statewide. Trailing St. Tammany was the Central Community school system, one of the Baton Rouge area’s long-time top performers. Central scored a 21.1, slightly down from last year.

The Orleans Parish School Board’s handful of high schools followed with a 20.9. White specifically highlighted both the Orleans School Board and the Recovery School District, which, combined, received an 18.8 score. That’s a 0.4 increase from last year.

Read more about New Orleans results. 

See ACT composite scores and total test-takers from 2005-2014 

He also had high praise for the City of Baker, the system with the fastest ACT growth in the state. There, educators partnered with MasteryPrep through the state’s Course Choice program to boost performance, which at 17.5 was up 1.9 from last year’s score. “I really commend them for that, and it shows that the course choice movement is working as well,” White said.

The state did not immediately release school-level scholarship eligibility data or composite data for all systems.

See school-level scores from 2005-2014 in our database.

See 2015 ACT scholarship-eligible scores in our database.

New Orleans area ACT composite scores

School system Class of 2014 Class of 2015
St. Tammany Parish 21.5 21.5
Orleans Parish 20.5 20.9
Plaquemines Parish 18.9 20.1
St. Charles Parish 19.8 20
Louisiana 19.2 19.4
St. Bernard Parish 19.1 19.2
Jefferson Parish 18.9 18.9
New Orleans (Orleans + Recovery) 18.4 18.8
St. John the Baptist Parish 18.1 17.9
Recovery School District 16.4 16.6

 

Baton Rouge area ACT composite scores

School system Class of 2014 Class of 2015
Central Community Schools 21.3 21.1
Zachary Community Schools 20.2 20.7
Ascension Parish 20.6 20.6
Livingston Parish 20.1 20.5
West Feliciana Parish 20.4 20.5
Louisiana 19.2 19.4
West Baton Rouge Parish 20 19.4
St. James Parish 18.9 18.9
East Baton Rouge Parish – EBR only 18.8 18.8
East Baton Rouge Parish – EBR and RSD N/A 18.7
City of Baker School District 15.6 17.5
East Baton Rouge Parish – RSD only N/A 14.2

Source: Williams, Jessica. (2015, July 16). “ACT scores rise for 2nd straight year in Louisiana”. The Times-Picayune. Retrieved from http://www.nola.com/education/index.ssf/2015/07/act_scores_louisiana_test.html.