Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Theory, Policy, and Practice

Document Type



Public education has long been the subject of public discontent. Historical events such as the Soviet launch of Sputnik in 1957, the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, and repeated media reports that U.S. students were outscored by students in many other countries on international tests each prompted federal and state legislation aimed to reform public education. Following a presentation of the relative standing of the United States on three international tests, the history of public schooling in six states, Texas, North Carolina, Kentucky, Maryland, Florida, and Louisiana, is discussed. The central focus of the study is student outcomes in Louisiana since the passage of Act 478 in 1997, which provided for the state’s present accountability system. Among a number of programs intended to improve public education, Act 478, consistent with the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2002, supported the creating of the high stakes test, LEAP. The purpose of the present study was to use trend analysis to examine changes in three student outcomes: (a) student achievement, (b) student matriculation, and (c) student disciplinary actions, particularly suspension and expulsion rates and juvenile arrests. The study was bounded by the years 1997, when Act 478 was passed, to 2005, prior to the landfall of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Because Black and White students composed approximately 98% of the public school student population during those years, trends are reported in aggregate and disaggregated by race, except for juvenile arrests for which disaggregated data were not available. The analysis resulted in 30 trends, which revealed that statewide, student achievement had improved for both Black and White students, but not substantially. Contrary to national trends, dropout percentages improved, but the in-grade retention of students increased, especially after LEAP became high stakes in 2000. Suspensions and expulsions trended upwards, but juvenile arrests decreased. The achievement gap between Black and White students persisted though it narrowed slightly in some instances. Finally, more Black than White students were retained, suspended and expelled, and dropped out of school.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Taylor, Dianne L.



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