Landry Abandons Alternate Graduation Requirements for Seniors Who Do Not Pass LEAP Exam

On his first day as governor, Gov. Jeff Landry eliminated an alternative pathway for Louisiana high school seniors who fail the state’s academic progress exam.

Last June, the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) narrowly approved new regulations for students who do not meet the requirements of the Louisiana Educational Assessment Program (LEAP) test, which is necessary for graduation. In October, the state House Education Committee rejected the policy, prompting then-Gov. John Bel Edwards to reverse the decision in November. As a result, BESE implemented the new regulations last month.

While the state Senate Education Committee could have addressed the issue late last year, 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 acknowledged that “the LEAP test is aligned with the academic standards established by the (Louisiana) Department of Education and approved by BESE” and that a state law passed in 2021 “provides an alternative means of graduation for students with an exceptionality.”

The governor argued that the alternative standards could “introduce subjective criteria into the graduation process and lower the standards to receive a high school diploma.” He believes it is essential for students to meet minimum proficiency standards in core subjects in order to be adequately prepared for higher education and the workforce.

Advocates of the alternative graduation standards claimed that a failed LEAP test unfairly penalizes a senior who has performed well enough in other areas to earn a diploma.

“Education research shows that Louisiana’s current policy of withholding a diploma based on standardized test results does not align with best practices,” Edwards stated after overturning the House committee vote in November. “This proposed rule brings Louisiana in line with national standards and research. While standardized tests can be useful, this proposed rule will give teachers greater flexibility to meet the needs of individual students…”

Given the new composition of BESE, which now includes a conservative majority among its eight elected members and three of Landry’s appointees, it is unlikely that the matter will be revisited.

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