For Louisiana Parents Considering Opting Out
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.
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