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Louisiana’s ESSA “Innovative Assessments”: Testing Based on Books Students Will Have Already Read

August 12, 2018

In Louisiana, test-based ed reform will innovate by testing students on books they’ve read ahead of time.

Apparently US ed sec Betsy DeVos agrees. On July 30, 2018, she announced her approval of Louisiana’s bid to pilot these “new, Innovative assessments” as part of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) testing “flexibility.”

Of course, this means that these state-tested books will become the most important curricular component of a child’s education in the eyes of those affected by the resulting test scores, including student, teacher, school admin, and district admin.

The first announcement of Louisiana’s “innovative assessment” pilot bid came on April 02, 2018, in the throes of the release of Louisiana’s awful 2018 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores. Louisiana state superintendent needed a cheerleader press release, and even though the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) proposal had not yet been approved, it was better news than anything resulting from that NAEP-score drop.

But forget NAEP. Louisiana is on to something new, sort of:

Test students on books they’ve read.

Here’s the LDOE press release on Louisiana’s ESSA “innovative assessments” approval:


Jul 27, 2018

Pilot in Five School Systems Will Allow Teachers and Students to Focus on Knowledge of Books

BATON ROUGE, La. — The Louisiana Department of Education today announced the state’s proposal to pilot an innovative English assessment is the first to be approved by the U.S. Department of Education under the Innovative Assessment Demonstration Authority, part of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). By measuring students’ knowledge of specific books, rather than texts they have not read before, the test aspires to build knowledge of facts and texts in students.

“Research shows students need deep knowledge of a subject in order to effectively read about it,” said State Superintendent John White. “Louisiana’s pilot offers a unique opportunity to develop assessments that support this research. We are thrilled to be the first state in the nation to receive the authority to explore innovative ways to better assess student achievement.”

Louisiana submitted a proposal for the pilot in April 2018 in response to a provision in ESSA by which select states are allowed to develop and pilot new high-quality assessment formats in lieu of the existing statewide achievement tests. Louisiana and New Hampshire were the only states to submit proposals. Louisiana is the first state to earn approval from the federal government. Louisiana now has five years to develop, pilot and expand the innovative assessment.

Key features of Louisiana’s innovative assessment pilot include:

  • Combining English and social studies tests to streamline state testing;
  • Measuring what students have learned via passages from books that students have read, rather than passages that they have not read as part of the curriculum;
  • Assessing students through several brief assessments throughout the year, rather than one longer test at the end of the year; and
  • Preserving local control as to which books and which assessments their students will take.

The five initial partner school systems include Ouachita Parish, St. John the Baptist Parish, and St. Tammany Parish, as well as KIPP Public Charter Schools and Collegiate Academies in Orleans Parish.

“St. John the Baptist Parish is excited to implement and study streamlined and integrated assessments that truly assess the books students read and the knowledge students build,” said St. John the Baptist Parish Public Schools Superintendent Kevin George. “This new and innovative approach has great potential to improve learning in literacy within our district and across Louisiana.”

As for the actual details behind Louisiana’s proposed ESSA “innovative assessment” pilot: The 318-page application can be found here.  (Appendices begin on page 77, beginning with the professional bio info of LDOE project staff and external partners.)

Below is a 5-minute video advertising Louisiana and New Hampshire’s ESSA assessment pilot proposals. It’s shy on details but makes for a pretty commercial:


Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

  1. Laura H. Chapman permalink

    First questions:
    Which books? who decides? who get the contract to supply the books to schools?.Do the books come from the Common Core lists, complete with lexile scores?

  2. kesheck permalink

    This is eminently more fair then the reading tests given in other states. The reason standardized reading scores track SES so closely is that they favor students with broad knowledge of the world and a large vocabulary (see “There’s No Such Thing As A Reading Test: Being able to comprehend a text – once the reader is a skilled decoder – depends upon how much background knowledge of the topic the reader possesses. Students who come from families who have the means to go on vacations, visit museums, and own a variety of books and other reading materials are naturally at an advantage on a reading assessment that tests students on topics they may not have studied in school.

    And yes, the texts chosen for the test become part of the curriculum. That means there should be careful, thoughtful, inclusive discussions on the texts included. I think that’s the kind of conversation educators should be having.

    • “This is eminently more fair then the reading tests given in other states.”

      No it’s not. Please let us know how a process-standardized testing* that is completely invalid, therefore unreliable in which the usage of any results is “vain and illusory”, in other words, hogwash can be “more fair”. By definition since the tests are onto-epistemologically invalid, they cannot be fair and as such making a distinction between one unfair test and another is ludicrous and risible.

      *See Noel Wilson’s “Educational Standards and the Problem of Error” found at:

  3. Gee whiz Wally, I was tested on books I read back in the 60s!

  4. Thanks for sharing!

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