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Higher Standards Spell Success for Louisiana HBCUs

Article excerpt

Schools boast highest passage rates in state on national teacher exam

BATON ROUGE, LA.

Just a year after three of Louisiana's historically Black universities were placed on probation for low passage rates on the national teacher certification exam, they were told that they have now some of the highest passage rates in the state.

Louisiana Higher Education Commissioner E. Joseph Savoie noted that the regents had given Southern University at Baton Rouge, Southern University at New Orleans and Grambling State University two years to improve their scores on the national teacher exam, or risk the possible loss of the teacher education programs.

"They've all responded beautifully - in fact, their improvement has been phenomenal," Savoie says.

So phenomenal, in fact, that their latest passage rate is now higher than many predominantly White universities in Louisiana, including Louisiana State University, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and Southeastern Louisiana University.

At Southern University's Baton Rouge campus, 97 percent of the 65 students who graduated from the education program passed the national teacher certification exam, known as Praxis, during the 2001-2002 school year.

That's a dramatic improvement from the previous year, when only 46 percent of the 104 graduating education majors passed the exam.

Southern University at New Orleans (SUNO) and Grambling State found themselves in hot water last year because they both had a 60 percent passage rate.

Under the regents' new accountability program, an education program is required to have at least an 80 percent passage rate on the Praxis exam, or risk the loss of that program.

"If they didn't improve in two years, we (the regents) were going to pull their degree programs and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education was going to pull their certification so they couldn't prepare teachers," Savoie says.

While Southern's Baton Rouge campus had a 97 percent passage rate, SUNO had a 98 percent passage rate with 43 of 44 Praxis exam takers passing it. And at Grambling, all 21 Praxis exam takers passed the test for a 100 percent passage rate.

"We gave them two years to fix it, but the truth is that they've already fixed it," Savoie says.

Officially, the three schools will still be considered in "transitional" status until the two-year probationary period ends next year. …