By Christina Sturgis

The Ouachita Parish School System, which includes the West Monroe schools, ranked 15th statewide on the Louisiana Educational Assessment Program, a standardized test for students in grades 3 through 8, according to the latest data available from the state Department of Education.

The percentage of students scoring at the basic level or above, meaning they will progress to the next grade, was 76 percent, a single point lower than last year, and significantly better than the statewide average of 69 percent.

West Monroe students scored significantly higher than students in the City of Monroe School District, a municipality across the Ouachita River sometimes known as West Monroe’s twin city. That district placed 47th among the state’s 72 districts. In the City of Monroe, 63 percent of students scored well enough to progress to the next grade.

Louisiana has an overall educational improvement program called Louisiana Believes, which emphasizes early intervention, testing, accountability and high expectations. Education Week gave the state a 97.2 percent score on standards, assessments and school accountability in its annual report card, where the state placed 15, just under Texas, which is striving for better achievement through early intervention, testing, accountability and high expectations.

In the city known as Silicon Hills, however, Texas Gov. Rick Perry recently signed a law that reduces state-mandated standardized testing. A major voice calling for reform is an organization called Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessment, which was founded by parent and lawyer Dineen Majcher.

“These high-stakes tests create unnecessary barrier to graduation, take valuable classroom instruction time, and divert significant public funding to a for-profit testing company instead of the classroom,” according to TAMSA.

For the reduction in testing to occur, the state will have to obtain a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind mandate.