A Sustainable Approach to High School Accountability in Louisiana

Every educator, school leader, and district administrator wants their students to create a high-achieving learning environment — but that doesn’t mean that state assessments and accountability measures come without stress.

Since the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act and its successor, the Every Student Succeeds Act, every state in the country has been mandated to create a school assessment and accountability system, which must include standardized assessments and produce publicly available school ratings.

Under Louisiana’s accountability system, key factors in school ratings include student performance on the Louisiana Educational Assessment Program (LEAP 2025), which is administered to students in grades 3-8 as well as in high school, and the ACT, administered to all Louisiana high school juniors.

In addition to school ratings, LEAP 2025 and ACT outcomes also impact students’ post-secondary options and teachers’ salaries, so the stakes for improving test outcomes are high. However, focusing too heavily on standardized assessments can detract from teaching quality. In a state like Louisiana — which has long faced significant challenges but is steadily rising in national education quality rankings — it’s especially important to prepare students for testing within the context of a responsive, holistic educational approach.

School Accountability Ratings in Louisiana

Every year, each Louisiana public school receives a “report card” and an overall grade of A-F, which is publicly available online. Larger schools also receive “subgroup” ratings that measure their efficacy at teaching students from certain demographic groups, such as those with disabilities or English language learners. Schools with persistent low scores must implement mandated interventions until their scores improve.

The report card also includes the school’s scores across the individual areas that contribute to the overall grade.

For high schools, these are:

  • Assessments: Based on the school’s LEAP 2025 scores — 12.5% of overall grade
  • Progress Rating: The student body’s improvement in LEAP 2025 scores over time — 12.5% of overall grade
  • ACT: Students’ ACT or WorkKeys scores — 25% of overall grade
  • Strength of Diploma: The credentials and college credits with which students leave high school — 25%
  • Graduation Rate: Percentage of students who graduate within four years — 20% of score
  • Interests and Opportunities: A measure of the specific learning opportunities available to students (e.g., physical education, visual arts, performing arts, world languages, STEM) — 5%

Together, the two LEAP 2025-related areas (assessments and progress rating) and the ACT score area make up 50% of a school’s grade, highlighting the importance of effective preparation for assessments.

LEAP 2025 in Louisiana High Schools

The state of Louisiana administers five LEAP 2025 assessments to high school students each year: English I, English II, Algebra I, Geometry, Biology, and US History/Civics. To earn a standard diploma, Louisiana students must pass at least one exam in each of three subject pairs:

  1. Algebra I or Geometry 
  2. Biology or US History/Civics
  3. English I or English II

Each LEAP 2025 assessment aligns with Louisiana’s academic standards, as well as the skills measured on the ACT. Possible scores include:

  • Advanced (Exceeded Expectations)
  • Mastery (Met Expectations)
  • Basic (Nearly Met Expectations)
  • Approaching Basic (Partially Met Expectations)
  • Unsatisfactory (Expectations Not Yet Met)

Students with significant cognitive disabilities are eligible to take LEAP Connect, an alternate set of assessments for graduation.

Current State of LEAP 2025 Scores in Louisiana

Like their peers across the country, Louisiana students experienced significant drops in standardized test scores during and immediately after COVID-19-related school closures in 2020 and 2021. While LEAP 2025 scores have now exceeded pre-pandemic levels, and 75% of state schools saw score increases in the 2022-2023 school year, proficiency levels remain stubbornly low. Statewide, just 33% of K-12 students scored Mastery, meaning that most students remain below grade level in their educational attainment.

Meanwhile, LEAP’s status as a graduation requirement became a hot-button political issue in 2023. In response to demand from students who cannot graduate because of persistent difficulties with the assessment, the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education created a plan to create an appeals process that would allow high school seniors to submit alternate evidence of proficiency. The plan has received significant opposition but is likely to become policy. However, LEAP 2025 scores will remain central to the standard graduation pathway.

Incentives for Increasing LEAP 2025 Scores

In addition to improving schools’ ratings and students’ graduation rates, higher LEAP 2025 scores can translate to specific rewards for schools and educators.

Schools with the highest rates of LEAP 2025 score improvement recieve a Top Gains badge, and schools in which economically disadvantaged students, students with disabilities, and/or English language learners do particularly well are named Opportunity Honorees. Both designations are displayed alongside the school’s overall letter rating.

Through Louisiana’s Value-Added Model (VAM), LEAP 2025 scores also play an important role in evaluating teacher efficacy. The VAM model predicts individual students’ LEAP 2025 scores each year based on prior results and places teachers in state-wide percentiles based on how many of their students exceed expectations. That ranking is one component of Louisiana’s Compass teacher performance measurement system, which districts can use to set pay scales.

ACT in Louisiana High Schools

Since 2013, every Louisiana high school student has been required to take the ACT exam to graduate, whether or not they plan to attend college.

In 2023, Louisiana students’ ACT scores increased for the first time since 2017 to an average composite score of 18.2. Despite this improvement, less than half of students met the ACT’s college or career readiness benchmarks:

  • English: 47%
  • Reading: 32%
  • Math: 19%
  • Science: 22%

By average composite score, Louisiana ranked the fifth-lowest in the nation, showing significant room for improvement. However, it’s important to note that only ten states require all high school students to take the exam, meaning that selection bias may artificially raise results in states where it is not required.

In addition to the standard ACT, Louisiana students may choose to take WorkKeys, a standardized assessment focused on essential career skills. If a student’s WorkKeys score is higher than their ACT score (based on a state equivalency table), the school may use the WorkKeys score in their accountability reporting. For students on technical pathways in high school, WorkKeys scores may be used to qualify for certain scholarships and awards.

Solutions for Improving School Accountability Ratings in Louisiana

Schools in Louisiana need to raise their LEAP 2025 and ACT scores to improve their accountability ratings and student outcomes, but getting there can be challenging. Since many teachers are already stretched thin, additional test preparation can detract from essential instructional time. Plus, understanding test-taking strategy is vital to score highly, and it’s not enough to simply ensure students understand the curriculum.

That’s why MasteryPrep offers equitable, mastery-based learning systems for school districts to improve student performance on LEAP 2025 and ACT and raise their accountability ratings. These solutions are purpose-built to connect the content already being taught in classrooms to the assessments students must take and to give them the test-specific skills and strategies they need to succeed.

MasteryPrep’s Programming for LEAP 2025 is designed to increase the number of your students achieving Mastery and Advanced through a simple, proven process. At the beginning of the year, students take a diagnostic pre-test to help teachers understand student strengths and weaknesses. Then, students complete online SnapCourses covering nearly all relevant LA Student Standards. SnapCourses provide an engaging, bingeable online experience that adapts to each individual student to focus on the areas where they struggle most.

MasteryPrep also offers LEAP 2025 Boot Camps, half-day events designed to increase the number of scoring Mastery and Advanced on the LEAP 2025 assessment. Each Boot Camp focuses on a single subject and provides students a targeted review of both content and test-taking strategy.  Boot Camps are led by a MasteryPrep-certified instructor and can be delivered in-person or virtually.

East Feliciana High School serves 382 students in Louisiana from grades 8–12.

  • 93% of its students belong to minorities, and 86% are eligible for free or reduced lunch. After conducting a LEAP 2025 Geometry Boot Camp, the percentage of students scoring a passing grade increased from 22% to 57%. 

In addition to LEAP 2025 preparation, MasteryPrep offers several solutions to boost student performance on the ACT and WorkKeys. All MasteryPrep solutions are ready-to-use and fully supported, meaning that educators don’t need to take valuable time away from instruction or lesson planning.

The end result? Less stress for educators, better outcomes for students, and higher accountability scores for schools.

Learn more about MasteryPrep for LEAP 2025

Learn more about MasteryPrep’s ACT and WorkKeys solutions

About MasteryPrep:

MasteryPrep provides mastery-based college readiness services and resources for the SAT®, ACT®, TSIA2, EOC, and WorkKeys®. MasteryPrep is the nationally preferred SAT and ACT prep provider of the Council for Opportunity in Education and licensed by ACT to include official ACT test questions in its programs. MasteryPrep partners with schools and districts to help level the standardized assessment playing field. MasteryPrep has ranked among the Inc. 5000 “Fastest Growing Companies” for six years and is a featured “Entrepreneur 360” company.


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