In what might be a delay to the inevitable, Gov. John Bel Edwards rejected a legislative committee’s decision to deny Louisiana high school seniors an option to obtain a diploma if they can’t pass a standardized exam.
Last week the House Committee on Education voted down a proposal from the state school board to create an alternative for students who struggle with the Louisiana Educational Assessment Program exam, or LEAP test. Advocates for the change argue the test unfairly penalizes 12th graders who otherwise perform well enough in school to graduate.
In a letter sent Wednesday to committee chair Rep. Lance Harris, R-Alexandria, the governor called the lawmakers’ decision “unacceptable.”
“Education research illustrates that Louisiana’s current policy of denying students a diploma based on the results of a standardized test does not reflect best practices,” Edwards wrote. “This proposed rule brings Louisiana in line with national norms and research. While standardized tests can be useful, this proposed rule will provide teachers with greater ability to meet the needs of individual students …”
The education committee voted 8-3 last month to reject the policy recommendation the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education made in June. BESE President Holly Boffy supports the proposal, along with school superintendents and at least one of the state’s main teachers’ unions. Louisiana is one of only eight states that requires passage of a standardized test for graduation, and it offers no appeals process for students who fail.
State education Superintendent Cade Brumley, like most Republicans, opposes the policy change, saying it waters down graduation requirements at a time when Louisiana should pursue more stringent standards.
Technically, the Louisiana Senate Education Committee could consider the same BESE proposal and send its own recommendation to the governor. The more likely scenario will be that the issue lies over until Republican Gov.-elect Jeff Landry is inaugurated and the new GOP-majority legislature is sworn into office.
Landry takes over as governor on Jan. 8.
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