Without being terribly specific, Governor Bobby Jindal has recently made statements saying he’s having “concerns with Common Core,” he’s opposed to “federal, one-size-fits-all testing that potentially breaches student privacy,” and Louisiana should withdraw from the consortium of states developing a new high-quality test to measure student performance based on Common Core standards.
That would be a huge step in the wrong direction.
Adding a little context to the discussion might be useful. The Common Core represents higher academic standards to better prepare students for college and careers. But they mean nothing without a strong, well-designed test that’s fully aligned to those standards. To develop that test, Louisiana joined a consortium of states called the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers which is scheduled to administer the first of these tests next year.
Louisiana is a governing state in the PARCC consortium and has been actively involved in it since its inception in 2010. The state has contributed 26 educators to help develop the new test and this spring nearly 25,000 Louisiana students in close to 500 schools participated in field tests of the new assessment.
Now the governor is suggesting that Louisiana abandon all those efforts and change course just as all that work is about to come to fruition. From CABL’s perspective this would be a major step backwards for public education in Louisiana for a number of reasons.
First, to address some of the concerns that have been raised, the PARCC assessment is not a “federal” test. It was developed by a consortium of states. If it’s a one-size-fits all test, then so is the California Achievement Test, the Iowa Test of Basic Skills and the ACT – all of which Louisiana students have taken at various times over the years. In fact, we think it’s a step above those tests because of all of the Louisiana input that has gone into PARCC. As for the concern about privacy breaches, student data through PARCC should be just as secure as that at ACT or any other national test – or for that matter, the state’s own LEAP test.
But the reality is that pulling out of the PARCC testing would be a disaster for Louisiana students and teachers and a victory for the coalition of the status quo. That might not be what anyone intends, but that’s what will happen and it creates a number of very serious concerns:
After years of preparation for the PARCC assessment, pulling out would cause a major disruption and create chaos in classrooms around the state that could go on for years. We’re already seeing that in states like Indiana, South Carolina and Florida. Our teachers and students don’t deserve that.
PARCC is one of only two national tests fully aligned to the Common Core. Taking a test that is not fully aligned kills any real notion of school accountability.
If Louisiana creates its own test, it would lack the international rigor of PARCC, cost tens of millions of dollars to develop, and lead to another period of transition that would likely last through the end of the decade. What do students or teachers gain out of that?
Without a national test, Louisiana parents and taxpayers, who annually invest $8 billion in state and local taxes for public education, will have no idea how Louisiana kids are performing compared to their peers in other states. We all have a right to know what we’re getting for our investment in public schools.
CABL believes sticking with our five-year trajectory to administer a high-quality, nationally-recognized test next year based on rigorous Common Core standards is critical. It’s about accountability and it’s about quality. But mostly it’s about our children and ensuring that they are learning the things they need to compete nationally and globally for good jobs and great opportunities.