Concerns that large numbers of Louisiana public school students would skip the Common Core standardized tests appear unfounded, with the state’s education superintendent saying 99 percent showed up Monday for the opening day of exams.
Some parents who oppose the education standards have sought to keep their children from taking the tests, and education officials are watching closely to determine if an anti-Common Core “opt-out” movement skews exam results for schools and districts.
But Superintendent of Education John White cited self-reported participation rates from school systems that showed only “a small number of isolated instances” where sizable numbers of students sat out the tests.
“Today’s assessment gives preliminary indication that concerns about widespread nonparticipation did not bear out,” White said.
The Common Core standards are benchmarks of what students should learn at each grade level in English and math. They’ve been adopted by more than 40 states as a way to better prepare students for college and careers. Opponents say the standards are developmentally inappropriate and part of federal efforts to nationalize education.
Attempts by critics to derail the exams failed, and 320,000 students in third grade through eighth grade are expected to take the tests over five days. Even the children of Gov. Bobby Jindal, a vocal opponent of Common Core, are participating.
Of those who missed the first day of exams, White said roughly half were from Calcasieu Parish, one of the state’s centers of opposition to Common Core. The school district was listed at an 88 percent test-taking rate Monday, according to data from the Education Department.
Three other school districts had test-taking rates that White listed as a concern: Jackson Parish, at 87 percent participation; Red River Parish at 94 percent; and Central Community School District at 92 percent, according to department numbers.
School leaders worry about the implications of the testing refusals because students who skip the test will produce zeros in calculations of school performance scores that can determine school takeovers and other penalties.
Jindal said he and his wife decided their children would take the exams because of concerns the Education Department “would penalize our children’s school as a result of us choosing to opt them out of the test.”
“I will be working hard to make sure this is the last year that we, or any other parents in the state, are forced to subject our children to this exam,” the governor said in a written statement.
Central Community Superintendent Michael Faulk said he respects parents’ rights to make decisions about their children’s education. But he worried about the impact of the 153 student refusals in his small district, which was Louisiana’s third-highest performing public school district last year.
“Under the state’s scoring system, there’s no way our district won’t see a significant drop in nearly every category,” Faulk said.
White said he’s invited the superintendents of the Calcasieu, Central, Jackson and Red River school systems to meet with him and discuss how to handle the impact of students who sat out the exams.
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education refused to waive penalties for schools whose students refuse to take the standardized tests, instead waiting to see a report later this summer about how widespread opt outs were.
Louisiana is using testing material from a multistate consortium called the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, known as PARCC. Eleven other states are in the consortium, so Louisiana students’ results can be compared against the performance of students in those states.
A second set of end-of-year assessments will be given to Louisiana’s public school third-graders through eighth-graders in May.