BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – Changes may be in the works for Louisiana’s K-12 students who are learning English and for any students who may need an alternative graduation pathway.

The possible changes would be implemented to ensure all young learners have the best preparation possible for post-high school educational and career endeavors.

During the week of April 17, the Louisiana Department of Education presented the Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, or BESE, with a preliminary policy brief about accountability and graduation requirements for the state’s K-12 English learners.

The information presented was related to a proposal BESE originally heard in March. The proposal detailed an alternate graduation pathway for English learners that would remove the requirement for students to pass the LEAP standardized test.

During a Tuesday, April 19 meeting with BESE, representatives from various Louisiana schools explained why they supported the alternate graduation route that would remove the LEAP requirement.

One educator from Einstein Charter Schools in New Orleans East said, “Some of these students are coming in from foreign countries late into high school and they’re coming in with goals. They want to get an education. They made a journey to be here to get their education and it’s disheartening when we can’t give it to them. It’s disheartening when we say, ‘You’ve got to pass this LEAP and these social studies that you know nothing about. And you’ve got to pass it within a year. And that’s the only way you’re going to have a diploma and continue your education.'”

Another high school English Second Language Coach from the Calcasieu Parish School District shared her thoughts, saying, “Louisiana currently has the lowest graduation rate of English learners in the nation.”

She added that most educators agree it takes seven years to become fluent in a language.

“The LEAP does not separate content mastery from language proficiency and therefore is not a reliable measure of either,” the ESL Coach continued. “Students who arrive in seventh grade or later do not have seven years to become proficient during their K-12 education. We’re asking these students to defy science and pass an exam their brains are not ready for.”

BESE assigned LDOE the responsibility of creating a task force to identify obstacles young English learners face and create strategies to help them succeed.

At BESE’s direction, LDOE is also creating a series of standard procedures to be followed should any Louisiana student, English learner or not, need to issue an appeal in relation to graduation testing requirements.

That said, this would not erase the general requirement for high school students to pass the LEAP.

The standard procedure LDOE must create will be modeled after examples from Texas and New Jersey. BESE said the policy recommendations will be presented for consideration during its June meetings.

Click here to view the policy brief BESE reviewed this week.