BESE introduces appeals process for state’s LEAP scoring graduation requirement

Published 7:15 am Thursday, June 15, 2023

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The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) approved an appeals process for qualifying high school seniors who do not meet the state’s LEAP test scoring requirement for graduation. Of the eight states that still require minimum standardized test scores for graduation, only Louisiana has not offered students an appeals process for that requirement. The new policy provides an appeal option for seniors who have demonstrated the knowledge and skills sufficient to graduate, but struggle with difficulties related to standardized assessments, such as English Language learners and students with other learning challenges.

BESE President Dr. Holly Boffy said, “The value of state testing cannot be overstated. Louisiana’s LEAP assessment has long been a key tool in measuring student achievement and strengthening our education system. In some circumstances however, the standardized testing process itself serves as a barrier to students, preventing them from validating the learning they have achieved.

“There are many examples throughout our state of students with unique testing difficulties being tested repeatedly without success, despite having a strong understanding of the content. In such cases, the mechanics of test taking have blocked that student’s advancement, pushing them out of employment and enrollment opportunities, leading to a disconnected youth. The goal of the policy approved by BESE today is to provide an appeals process for these students in confirming their graduation eligibility and readiness for postsecondary opportunities.”

Under the new EXCELL (Expanded Criteria for Every Learner in Louisiana) appeals process, students meeting certain academic criteria will have the option to appeal if they have not met the assessment graduation requirement on both exams of any content pair. Students may not file an appeal until their senior year, and must meet the following requirements:

  1. Complete all Carnegie unit requirements for TOPS University or TOPS Tech Career Diploma
  2. Demonstrate content proficiency by:
  • Meeting standard assessments requirements in a pair -and/or-
  • Creating a portfolio of work aligned to the standards for both subjects in the LEAP 2025 pair unfulfilled by the end-of-course score
  1. Demonstrate evidence of employability by earning one of the following:
  • A Silver or higher rating on ACT WorkKeys -or-
  • A TOPS Tech award – or –
  • A Louisiana JumpStart-approved Industry Based Credential

Appeals will be administered at the local school level, and students would still be required to take the LEAP assessment. BESE has directed the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) to develop implementation guidance prior to the start of the 2023-2024 school year.

Schools are required to report annually the number and percentage of diplomas issued via the appeals process per graduating cohort. If a school’s graduating cohort exceeds 3 percent through appeals, the LDOE will conduct an audit, which may result in additional monitoring and data requests to evidence appeals processes in practice. A required triennial report of initial implementation findings by the LDOE will include the postsecondary outcomes of appeals process graduates. The report will highlight the percentage of college enrollment compared with non-graduates, the percentage employed after graduation compared with non-graduates, and the types of Industry Based Credentials earned through the appeal process. The report will be submitted to BESE at its January 2026 meetings, will continue on an annual basis, and will serve as a reference to the Board for determining future policy revisions.

The EXCELL appeals process increases the evidence of a student’s content proficiency by requiring the demonstration of knowledge in both subjects in a pair when the student fails to demonstrate proficiency on the end-of-course exams. Students who graduate by appeal must earn the WorkKeys National Career Readiness Certificate or an Industry Based Credential. These requirements align with national priorities reflected in states moving toward formative assessments for content, with an increased focus on students demonstrating practical skills required for postsecondary success.

The complete policy for the EXCELL appeals process is available for viewing online at

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BESE is the administrative policymaking body for elementary and secondary schools in Louisiana. The Board sets key education initiatives and works to outline an education agenda to achieve continuous improvement of public education as measured by student and school achievement.