The only way a test is a meaningful measure of school performance is that everybody takes the same test. So it is a serious threat to school accountability — for students, parents and taxpayers — for Gov. Bobby Jindal to encourage dropping out of the new statewide school tests.
The good news is that only a few parents have pulled their children out of the new tests, replacing the old LEAP tests that were a hallmark of the accountability program for schools.
The bad news is that every student who fails to take the testis hurting the school and the student.
The agitation is another chapter in Jindal’s misleading campaign against Common Core academic standards, under development and now in implementation over a period of years. The goal is to boost school performance by raising the bar of what students learn and how they learn it, so that they can think more critically and respond more effectively to the dramatic changes in our nation’s economy — indeed, that of the world.
But for Jindal, it’s a political football.
As the Council for a Better Louisiana pointed out, “some of the things that have been said or proposed are so off point that they hardly bear mentioning.”
Unfortunately, clarity and logic have counted for little against Jindal’s desire to gain support among critics of Common Core.
The new version of the LEAP test uses questions related to Common Core standards developed by a consortium of states, including Louisiana, called Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. Louisiana educators helped develop the current PARCC questions; the volunteer head of the board for PARCC was the former Louisiana superintendent of schools, Paul Pastorek. Our teachers have been preparing for at least two years. Some 50,000 Louisiana students took this as a practice test last year with no major glitches or controversies reported.
What’s wrong with PARCC has nothing to do with the merits: “It’s aligned to what we’re teaching our kids in the classroom,” CABL said.
After all this time and trouble over a period of years, it is not only dishonest for Jindal to spin theories of how Common Core and PARCC are some kind of Commie plot. It’s administratively insane for the governor to say in February that the state has to come up with an alternative test in March.
State law is apparently only convenient for Jindal when it is aligned with his political needs, but the fact is that a fundamental concern in LEAP testing was that everyone take the test so it provides for students and teachers, but also for taxpayers who don’t have children in school, a valid measurement of educational attainment in public classrooms. That is why state law requires that the state’s test be aligned with the state’s academic standards.
The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, and Superintendent John White, are bound to follow state law, but in Louisiana, the frown of a governor has often enough been reason for officials to find wiggle room in the law. That is why we have praised the BESE board majority and White for sticking with higher standards. They, not Jindal, are acting in the best interests of students.
We encourage parents, even if they have some concerns about Common Core’s content, not to pull students out of a test that is fundamental to school accountability.
Long after this Jindal-conceived fantasia has passed from the political scene, the students taking classes focused on Common Core standards — and tested on them, consistent with state law — will have a brighter future. That’s worth fighting for.