Landry Cans Alternative Graduation Rules for Seniors Who Fail LEAP Exam

The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is unlikely to reconsider the matter.

This is a photo of two students in cap and gown.

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On his first day in office, Gov. Jeff Landry cut off an alternative graduation route for Louisiana high school seniors who fail the state’s academic progress exam.

The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) narrowly approved new rules last June for students who fall short on the Louisiana Educational Assessment Program (LEAP) test needed to graduate. In October, the state House Education Committee rejected the policy, leading then-Gov. John Bel Edwards to overturn that vote in November. As a result, BESE put the new rules into place last month.

Technically, the state Senate Education Committee could have taken up the issue late last year, but it was left for the new governor and legislators to decide. On Monday, Landry issued an executive order to “veto” the alternative graduation standards.

In the order, Landry noted “the LEAP test is aligned with the academic standards established by the (Louisiana) Department of Education and approved by BESE” and a state law approved in 2021 “provides an alternative means of graduation for students with an exceptionality.”

The alternative standards could “introduce subjective criteria into the graduation process and lower the standards to receive a high school diploma,” the governor wrote. “…(I)t is in the best interest of our State to ensure that students are adequately prepared for postsecondary education and the workforce by meeting minimum standards of proficiency in core subjects.”

Supporters of the alternative graduation standards argued a failed LEAP test penalizes a senior who has otherwise performed well enough to earn a diploma.

“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 after he rejected the House committee vote in November. “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 …”

BESE is unlikely to reconsider the matter now that new members have been seated. They include a conservative majority among its eight elected members and three of Landry’s appointees.

Louisiana Illuminator is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Louisiana Illuminator maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Greg LaRose for questions: info@lailluminator.com. Follow Louisiana Illuminator on Facebook and Twitter.

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