About 80 parents of Lafayette Parish schoolchildren met Tuesday night with local and state education officials to vent their frustration with the new Common Core tests.
Many were concerned that the standardized tests have more to do with grading the individual schools than helping their children.
Some just don’t like the test.
“When I saw the sample questions, they were so complexly worded that I could not understand what they were asking me to do,” Lafayette Parish schoolteacher Erin May said in an interview last week. “I’m a professional educator. If I can’t understand it, how can I expect my 10- and 11-year-old to understand it?”
Next month, public school students in grades three through eight will take the new standardized tests in English and math that are aligned with the Common Core standards. Later this spring, students in those grades also will take the LEAP and iLEAP tests for social studies and science.
Some parents, legislators and even the governor have rallied against the Common Core standards and the test that accompanies them.
“You’re asking us as parents to put our faith in you, in BESE, in (state superintendent of education) John White, and what we’re seeing is a lot of dissension going on,” parent Audrey Muffoletto said. “We’re seeing all of this infighting — for a lack of better word — and you want us to put our faith in you what will be last-minute decisions. … That’s asking a lot of parents at this point.”
Muffoletto organized Tuesday’s meeting, which BESE members Carolyn Hill and Lottie Beebe, interim Lafayette Parish Schools superintendent Burnell LeJeune, school board members Jeremy Hidalgo, Justin Centanni and Erick Knezek, and other school system leaders attended.
The controversial test originates from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, a consortium of states that implemented Common Core and agreed to a common test to better compare student achievement across states. So far, that comparison involves students in 11 other states and the District of Columbia.
But Muffoletto questioned if the comparison would be fair because Louisiana students will not be taking the same test as students in the other consortium states this year. Instead they’ll be taking what Beebe described as “PARCC assessment items” written by a third-party company.
Parents have the right to opt their children out of state testing. The parental right has state and district school leaders worried because of the potential negative impact for schools and districts. Each untaken test counts as a zero toward the calculation of schools’ performance scores.
Last week, Gov. Bobby Jindal suggested that students who don’t take the test should be given an alternative assessment, though that’s unlikely after the idea was rejected by BESE president Chas Roemer. Beebe and Hill said they and two other BESE members pitched a special BESE meeting to discuss the potential impact of students not taking the test; however, no special meeting has been scheduled.
“Our desire is to put a moratorium on the scores and to allow the districts to receive their school performance score, but don’t hold them accountable,” Hill said.
Muffoletto told the panel she’s concerned about how a student not taking the test and receiving a zero will impact their academic record and if that zero will factor in whether students are able to participate in honors courses and other academic programs. Assistant superintendent Sandra Billeaudeau said standardized tests are only one data point used to make determinations about student placement.
Muffoletto questioned why students must receive a zero when “to me, (that) means you took the test and got no answers correct.
“It is not my child’s responsibility to prove how good a teacher is or how good a school is,” she said. “You’re asking our children to take this test just for a school grade. That should not fall on the shoulders of the children.”
So far, at least two parents have opted their children out of PARCC testing while the district has received documentation from a third parent that was not specific about whether they were opting out of all state testing, said Tom Spencer, the school system’s accountability director.
The first request was made about two weeks ago by Erin May, who cited concerns that available test questions were not age-appropriate and that the results would not benefit her children’s education because they would not be available until the 2015-16 school year.
May said her opt-out request was specific to PARCC. Her children, who are in the fifth and sixth grades, will take the iLEAP tests in science and social studies.
“I really think that seeing the sample questions for this particular test set the wheels in motion for me. Then, when I found out that we wouldn’t have the test results until after the next school year begins, that’s when I said, ‘This is ridiculous.’ The results won’t serve my child in any shape, form or fashion, so the state has some data — great. I’m not putting my children through that so the state can yet have more data,” she said.
Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.