At least 32 Lafayette Parish School System students in the third through eighth grades won’t take Common Core-aligned tests that begin March 16.
Although the number is small, considering that 13,000 Lafayette Parish School System students are eligible to take the exams, it nevertheless signals a degree of parental concern over the tests.
The tests are designed to gauge students’ skills in English language arts, writing and math. But some argue they won’t benefit students or say they disagree with curriculum changes prompted by the implementation of Common Core State Standards.
The new standards create uniform benchmarks for student knowledge by grade level. Louisiana and 10 other states are part of a consortium — the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC — that agreed to the common assessment to compare student achievement across states.
However, students in Louisiana will take assessments with PARCC-like questions written by a third party, raising another red flag for those opposed to the PARCC test who question whether it will offer an accurate comparison of student learning.
At least two students in St. Martin Parish are among those who won’t take the tests later this month, St. Martin Parish Schools Superintendent and BESE member Lottie Bebee disclosed during a Thursday morning BESE committee meeting.
BESE members heard from opt out advocates Thursday in an hourslong discussion on the tests and the impact of the zero scores students who don’t take the exam will produce for their school and school district.
The PARCC exam tests student learning in English language arts, writing and math. Students will take LEAP or iLEAP tests in science and social studies in April.
Some parents also have opted that their children not take the LEAP or iLEAP tests, as well, said Tom Spencer, the Lafayette school system’s accountability director. He said he’s still working with principals to clarify how many students have opted out of LEAP and iLEAP exams, but as of Thursday, 13 of the 32 students who opted out of the PARCC also weren’t taking either of the other tests.
Pushback from parents, educators and lawmakers over tests like PARCC and other standardized tests isn’t exclusive to Louisiana.
In January, a bill was introduced in Congress that sought to amend current federal education testing laws to test students less frequently while in third through eighth grades in English language arts and math. The intent is to reduce the frequency of the tests to allow more time for instruction and end the concept of “teaching to the test,” the proposed legislation says.
The spring exams are scheduled once a year, though there are other assessments that students face throughout the year from kindergarten through 12th grade.
A breakdown of the tests given to students through the course of the school year and the purpose of the assessments will be discussed during a forum next week planned by the education advocacy group Power of Public Education Lafayette and the National Writing Project of Acadiana.
Lafayette Parish School System officials will be on hand during the forum, “What Tests Do Our Children Take: Understanding State and District Mandated Assessments” scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Cecil Picard Center, 200 E. Devalcourt St.
Advocate reporter Will Sentell contributed to this report. Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.