Date of Award

Spring 5-11-2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Middle-Secondary Education and Instructional Technology

First Advisor

Dr. Chara Bohan

Second Advisor

Dr. Philo Hutcheson

Third Advisor

Dr. Kristen Buras

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Joseph Feinberg



High stakes testing is popularly examined in educational research, but contemporary analyses tend to reflect a qualitative or quantitative research design (e.g., Au, 2007; Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 2006; Gamble, 2010). Exhaustive debate over the relative success or failure of high stakes testing is often framed between competing visions of epistemological constructs, and the historical foundations of high stakes testing policies are rarely explored. The origins of high stakes testing can be traced to local school reform efforts in states like Louisiana, and investigating the roots of high stakes testing at the state level contextualizes the national debate on student assessment in research and scholarship.

Using historical research methods, this project details the local campaign to implement the Louisiana Educational Assessment Program (LEAP) as Louisiana’s comprehensive high stakes testing program. Enacted under state law in 1986, the LEAP is a series of K-12 student assessments aligned to prescriptive state standards. The LEAP is among the nation’s longest comprehensive high stakes testing programs and is the centerpiece to Louisiana’s school accountability system. The narrative of its development offers critical insight into the overarching rationales for high stakes testing that continue to drive accountability policies throughout the country. This study interweaves sociological and political history into a singular chronological record of the LEAP. Historical research methodology informs this study by establishing the basis for data collection and analysis. Historical research method is the systematic collection and evaluation of primary source data in order to determine trends, causes, or effects of past events (Gay, 1996; Lucey, 1984). Methods used in this research investigation include document analysis and oral history interviews. Multiple data sources are used to gain a thorough understanding of the historical context surrounding the implementation of the LEAP. The LEAP functions as both a student assessment program and policy of school accountability, and the story of its development is an important narrative within the field of high stakes testing research and scholarship.