Students in Louisiana suffered damaging learning loss during the COVID-19 pandemic, and billions of dollars have been spent to bring them up to speed. But did the extra efforts pay off? We’re about to find out. The answer is critically important for families in the state, for their children, and for Louisiana’s comeback.

The Louisiana Department of Education soon will release the results of the 2022-2023 Louisiana Educational Assessment Program (LEAP) test, which measures public school students’ learning in English language arts, math, science, and social studies. The test serves as the primary objective measurement of students’ academic performance across the state’s public schools.

Over the past few years, with the help of $4 billion in extra federal funding for tutoring and other student supports, schools have implemented a number of strategies to help kids learn and reverse the learning loss that occurred (and still hasn’t fully recovered) from the pandemic lockdowns. Louisiana has also placed a significant focus on reading, re-training educators to effectively teach young kids how to read so they’re firmly on grade level and reading fluently by the end of third grade. In addition, dozens of low-performing schools identified by the state as “in need of comprehensive intervention (schoolwide) or targeted intervention (certain student populations like kids with disabilities or low-income students)” have received additional dollars to implement proven strategies to improve teaching and learning.

How will we know if these efforts are paying off in learning gains for kids? Let’s begin by looking back to last year’s LEAP results. Specifically, what percentage of students were proficient (on grade level) in core academic subjects? Where was progress achieved? Where were problem spots where we should look for improvement in the upcoming new scores?

In the previous 2021-2022 school year, 31% of Louisiana public school students scored proficient (“Mastery” level) on the state tests. Last year’s results showed improvement over the prior year in every subject, but Louisiana remained far from being fully recovered from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Only ten school systems in the state recovered back to or surpassed their pre-pandemic levels.

The highest-performing school system was Zachary Community Schools with 51% proficient. No other school system achieved 50% or higher. Twenty-nine school systems (out of 69 total)  had fewer than one-fourth of students scoring at proficiency. Thirteen school districts did not achieve growth, overall, from 2020-2021 to 2021-2022.

Of particular concern were the state’s third grade reading scores, which haven’t improved since the 2018-2019 school year.

Louisiana desperately needs a comeback and it starts with a quality education and increased educational options for kids. Let’s hope the forthcoming LEAP test results show Louisiana’s schools are achieving great learning gains to enable our state’s next generation to thrive.

*Updated 8/2/2023 to reflect updated data sets and to make corrections.