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For Louisiana Parents Considering Opting Out

January 28, 2015

In deciding whether or not to opt their children out of high-stakes testing, parents need only consider one fundamental question:

Is completing this test beneficial to my child?

If not, then opt out.

Louisiana parents of children in public school grades 3 through 8 are facing this question as the week of March 16, 2015, nears. That is the week that students are scheduled to take their first week of tests that the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) is calling “PARCC” tests. Louisiana has no legitimate contract with Pearson, the official PARCC vendor, and LDOE has produced no official agreement regarding the details of any formal arrangement connecting Louisiana testing in 2014-15 with Pearson. In fact, all that state board members have to go on is Louisiana State Superintendent John White’s “trust me.”

Even if White were trustworthy (which he is not), the failure of a state superintendent to provide both state board members and the public with formal documentation regarding the procurement of Pearson-controlled, PARCC items is a wide-open door for future litigation.

That noted, on January 15, 2015, LDOE issued this brief document that offers some details betraying the true value of the mysteriously-procured “PARCC” tests– and that inadvertently can assist parents in deciding whether to opt their children out of these tests.

First of all, the document states that Louisiana’s “PARCC” tests “are the same tests as those taken by students in PARCC-participating districts and states across the country and will include the same questions field tested by nearly 50,000 Louisiana students during spring 2014.”

LDOE has no contract with Pearson, yet “the tests are the same.”

That statement has “shady deal” spray-painted all over it in neon.

Next, the January 15, 2015, LDOE document makes it clear that these test will not have any direct bearing on student grades or grade promotion. In fact, the scores for these tests will not be available until after the 2015-16 school year begins. So, there is no direct benefit to students that justifies students’ taking these tests.

In addition, the 2014-15 Louisiana “PARCC” test scores will not be reported in time to “inform teachers about student progress”– another proffered excuse by the test-driven reform set for their poorly-disguised dependence on test scores as a means to undermine traditional public education and career teachers.

Truly, if I want to be informed about how students are progressing in my class, their work in my class is a more efficient, useful indicator than standardized test scores.

But the tests do have a point, and that is to grade teachers and schools— not to benefit students. The January 15, 2015, LDOE document states as much. These “PARCC” test scores are needed to form a new baseline for value-added (VAM) grading of teachers. Moreover, these test scores are needed for the calculation of school performance scores.

Those two admissions provide leverage for parents who are considering a class action lawsuit against the state for unnecessarily submitting their children to six hours of testing in March 2015 and four to five hours more of testing in May 2015. Keep in mind that these ten to eleven hours of testing are in only two subjects.

In this insane testing push, all other subjects will take a curricular back seat as “PARCC” test prep becomes “teaching.”

In 2014-15, these Louisiana “PARCC” tests will be scored too late to be of value in student promotion decisions. However, even if the scores came back early, only students in fourth grade could possibly be held back due to some determination of scores as being too low.

Cut scores are controlled by the state and are nebulously defined as “driven, in part, by the NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) assessment.”

“Driven, in part.” The January 15, 2015, LDOE document implies that the cut scores for Louisiana’s “PARCC” will be set by PARCC (the consortium.) No details on scoring and cut scores is offered– which makes it seem like the cut scores will not be set until after the tests are scored. (New York cut scores were set after the fact.)

Even though the January 15, 2015, LDOE document includes zero specifics on those cut scores, fear not: LDOE just knows that scores will not drop from the previous, LEAP, assessments because LDOE says that LEAP used NAEP as “a guide”:

Because LEAP used NAEP and PARCC is using NAEP to guide standard setting, significant drops are not expected.

Well here’s a wrench in that system: Loosely “guiding” two tests’ cut scores on a third does not account for all issues that might contribute to “score drops,” including the length of the tests and differences in formatting.

NAEP takes 90 minutes.

My written exams for my doctorate took six hours (three hours per day for two days).

Louisiana “PARCC” for grades 3 through 8 takes ten to eleven hours.

These things ought not to be.

Know what else? In this NAEP info for parents, NAEP is identified as randomly-selected (not all kids take the NAEP)– and even though NAEP participation is mandated for states via No Child Left Behind (NCLB), parents are told they have the right to opt out their children.

Returning to Louisiana “PARCC”:

Even though there is no direct benefit or direct penalty to the student for opting out of Louisiana “PARCC,” parents might encounter pressure from schools and districts to enter their children in the “PARCC” testing marathon, even though such might contradict the better judgment of the parent for the child. That pressure comes from the twisted way in which student tests are being used to grade schools. In the case of 2014-15 Louisiana “PARCC,” for any student opting out, a school will receive a “zero” test score that will be figured into that school’s performance score. (See Chapter 41, Section 4101, “Valid Data Considerations,” page 19 in Title 28 Bulletin 111.)

The short of it is that school administrators are “held accountable” by the state for “making” parents allow their children to take a test that holds no direct benefit to any child– all so the school can get a better grade.

The flip side is that administrators who honor the parents’ decisions to opt their children out of the undue, unprecedented stress of ten to eleven hours of testing must face the reality that in doing so, these administrators subject their schools to possible punitive consequences from the state as incurred by  lowered school performance scores.

Louisiana administrators are being pressured to choose test scores over children.

This is a sick arrangement that begs to be challenged in court.

test stress

________________________________________________

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.

She is also doing some fundraising related to her second book on the history, development, and promotion of Common Core, due for release in May 2015.   GoFundMe: Schneider

 

23 Comments
  1. JW has made no secret that he will set the cut scores after they have been processed by him.

    Another broken law here: http://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/leg/esea02/index.html

    (2) AVAILABLE RESULTS- The State educational agency shall ensure that the results of State academic assessments administered in that school year are available to the local educational agency before the beginning of the next school year.

    I have my champagne in the fridge. That corner JW has painted himself into is getting smaller.

    • Hi, Lee. I remembered the ESEA deadline to report scores, but I restricted discussion in this post to make it easier on parents. Thank you for posting it in comments.

  2. “NAEP takes 90 minutes.

    My written exams for my doctorate took six hours (three hours per day for two days).

    Louisiana “PARCC” for grades 3 through 8 takes ten to eleven hours”

    Good God.

  3. monica permalink

    How do you opt your kids out?

    • You communicate with the school ahead of time in writing as to your desire for your children to be exempted from the tests. You make it clear that you know the tests will not be used for student grades or promotional decisions as per the state’s own declaration. Then you proceed based upon how the school responds. If the school states thta all children attending must test, then you could check your children into school after the tests on testing days, for example.

    • Monica – You are welcome to contact me for info that would assst you in deciding whether or not to opt out. If you are in Calcasieu, I will be there this Saturday. If you are around Desoto Parish I will be there Feb. 7. As for checking your students in after testing, I saw posted in a comment somewhere that different districts may have different rules for the timing that may or may not put your child in jeopardy of being counted absent so check your district rules.

  4. Laura chapman permalink

    And that time for testing children is only for two subjects. So just imagine the test schock with full a spectrum curriculum, tests in science, social studies,the arts, perhaps health, financial literacy, maybe a separate test for civics. Distributed across the grades the proctored test mania and test prep is clearly out of control. And all this testing is supposed to be necessary to close the achievement gaps and make these visible, by SES, race, ethnicity, special Ed status, English learners, gender–and of course, to assure the public that gaps persist for reasons of teacher incompetence.

  5. Paige permalink

    What do you have to do to “opt” your child out of the PARCC testing?

  6. A good resource for opting out of tests is here http://unitedoptout.com/state-by-state-opt-out-2/louisiana/. But if you have local help, they will have the specifics of your specific school.

  7. Also please help me fund Mercedes if you can! ( or help spread the word by social media) http://www.gofundme.com/g0ehic

  8. In my district, you can’t use the United Opt Out form, because it’s just a sample. You go to the district office and they have to give you one. But the United site explains laws and rights.

  9. SBAC takes over twice as long to test a third grader as the SAT or ASVAB. And there were no early elementary teachers designing that level. I can think of no worthy reason to make tests that long except to justify higher fees. By the way, the NAEP is free to schools, because it’s paid for by the feds, and it disaggregates all the info required by law. It’s been the gold standard of standardized tests since 1969. Shouldn’t we be thinking about what we’d like to use instead of SBAC and PARCC?

  10. Christy permalink

    I have 3 children that are in Livingston Parish schools (grades 3, 5 & 8). I plan to opt my children out of this testing. Knowing Livingston Parish, I suspect I’m going to meet resistance. What do I need to do?

  11. Dang permalink

    It is unfortunate that it is probably too late to initiate a media campaign to promote “opting out”. What a wonderful message to send to the LADOE. The spectacle of every school in the state receiving failing grades and being placed under the RSD would level the Karma for the whole state. Just imagine the strides backward we could make under the continued benevolent and capable leadership of the BESE Consortium (consisting of the Marx Brothers, Three Stooges, Abbot and Costello, and Laurel and Hardy), and, of course, State Superintendent, Jerry Lewis. I hate having the feeling of “Too F__cked to Fix” in regard to my profession, but I believe that the whole grotesque and corrupt structure must be collapsed before any real recovery can occur. And let’s change the DOE motto from “Louisiana Believes” (how arrogantly presumptuous) to “Louisiana Has a Hunch.”

  12. nellabellnola permalink

    Curious….what scores do the schools get from Mastery, Basic and Approaching Basic scores? Do they get a “zero” for the lowest performers?

  13. Calysta Manning permalink

    I have turned in my letter to opt my child out of PARCC. Had a meeting today with the Chief of Education in Lincoln Parish, my letter didn’t suffice so they needed me to sign their letter. He also said this was just for the PARCC and not for the Leap test that is still being administered for Science and Social Studies. My question is, can we opt out of that test also? if so, where can I find something to back that up.

  14. Michael Rarick permalink

    I need a copy of the form for opt out pracc if some one can help me please thanks Doc dru8012@yahoo.com

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