So far, only 13 of Lafayette’s 13,000 students opt out of Common Core tests _lowres

The Advocate file photo by BRAD KEMP -- Parents LeighAnne Bernard, left, and Audrey Muffoletto listen as Lafayette Parish Superintendent of Schools Burnell LeJeune, right, makes an opening statement before parents concerned about the upcoming Common Core tests. So far, only 13 of the school district's student have opted out of the test..

To date, 13 of the 13,000 Lafayette Parish School System students in grades three through eight will not be taking Common Core tests next month at the request of their parents.

A handful of requests were mailed to the school system’s central office; however, those parents will need to submit their requests through their school’s principal, said Tom Spencer, the school system’s accountability specialist.

The number of opt-outs represents an extremely small percentage of students who will not take the tests aligned with controversial Common Core standards. Spencer said more than 13,000 students will take the tests in English and math next month and also take the LEAP and iLEAP tests in science and social studies in April.

Seven of the 13 Lafayette Parish students also won’t take the LEAP or iLEAP tests, he said.

Students who opt out of the tests will receive a zero for the untaken tests and those scores will be reflected in their schools’ performance scores. So far, at least 14 school boards have passed resolutions requesting that the state not penalize those schools for students who have opted out of the exams.

Audrey Muffoletto is one of the parents who requested three of her children, in grades three, four and eight, not take any state standardized tests this spring. Muffoletto cited her concerns with changes in math teaching methodologies and that students may be unprepared for science and social studies tests because more emphasis has been placed on English and math, which are more heavily weighted by the state in its calculation of school performance scores.

She said public education officials’ “finger pointing” and a lack of consensus on the new tests also contributed to her reservations about her children taking the exams.

“There seems to be a lot of dissension going on in the state of Louisiana, and I’m not willing to let my kids suffer consequences as a result of that dissension,” Muffoletto said.

She said she and other parents view opting out of the test as a way to express their views on how the state has handled testing implementation.

“This is the only avenue that parents feel like they can make their voices heard and hopefully affect some kind of change in the system as a whole,” she said.

Muffoletto helped organize a meeting last week that drew about 80 parents and parish and state education officials, who answered questions about the new tests and how they’d affect students’ academic records and school performance scores.

School system leaders told the parents that standardized tests are used in placing students in honors and other special programs, though the scores aren’t the sole basis of those decisions.

Since the meeting, Muffoletto said, parents have reached out to her and LeighAnne Bernard, who hosted the meeting, for more information about the opt-out process.

Muffoletto said that while she and Bernard have provided parents information about the process, there’s no organized push for parents to opt out of the test.

“Our whole position is that that needs to be a personal decision,” Muffoletto said, and added later, “I honestly think that there are several parents I spoke to that want to opt out, but they’re scared that somewhere down the line, that their child is going to suffer a negative consequence. They’re basically going against what they feel is best for their child because they’re afraid of what may happen in the future because no one can give them a straight answer.”

Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.