For those looking at public education in Louisiana and the battle over higher academic standards, Monday was a much anticipated day. It was the first day that schools would administer the new end-of-year test known as PARCC .
That’s the test that gauges what students have learned over the course of the year and the first assessment fully aligned to the state’s Common Core academic standards. It’s also the test that Governor Jindal has tried to remove from Louisiana, the test protesters have railed against for hours at BESE, and the one that created a so-called “opt-out” movement urging parents to keep their kids from taking the test.
That notion of encouraging parents to boycott the test had anti-Common Core websites buzzing, billboards urging parents to “opt out of PARCC,” and in some places rallies stirring the pot to the degree that they could.
So the question was, what would Monday bring? And the answer was, pretty much nothing.
Statewide, according to data reported by local school districts, 99-percent of students took the test. By all accounts everything went smoothly and on average students completed the tests in significantly less than the allotted time. No controversy.
So what does that mean? It’s hard to say exactly, but perhaps, finally, that noisy opposition to our standards and assessments that has generated so much distraction and unnecessary controversy has been quantified. And what did it show? That in reality there’s just not much there. We now have a view behind the curtain at the depth of the anti-everything “movement,” and what we see is the very tiny tip of the tail wagging a very large dog.
It’s interesting to note that in the one district that had the largest number of opt-outs – Calcasieu – it was driven by a crusading legislator and an orchestrated campaign in a small part of the parish. And even there, it was only four schools out of 48 in the district that accounted for the entire parish’s high opt-out rate. In other words, it was not representative of mainstream thinking.
The takeaway is this. Polls indicate very clearly that there are both concerns and a lack of understanding about Common Core and the tests that go with it. But the intensity of that concern, just isn’t there. Instead we see a few people, a noisy few, that have created a disruption in public education that has lasted for two years now and they have no plans to back off. The broad public mainstream hasn’t embraced their views, and yet some of our politicians are marching to that narrow beat anyway and claim that they are “listening to the parents.”
Well, with the beginning of these “controversial” tests, the vast majority of parents have spoken. They could have made a statement against our standards by opting their children out of the tests. But they didn’t. They said despite whatever uncertainty they might have they are okay with moving forward on the path we’re on. They don’t want to start over and they don’t want to move backwards in a state that can’t move much further toward the back of the bus.
“Trust parents,” the opponents say. Yes, trust parents. They have spoken in a way that drowned out the incessant noise of the small crowd. At some point, we need to listen to them.