To PARCC or Move On

This editorial appeared in the Lake Charles American Press today:

To PARCC Or Move On?


Not all tests are bad for you or your children.  Vision tests can help doctors discover if your children need eye glasses.  Requiring driving tests help everyone not get run over by people who didn’t take vision tests. 


In education there are two very different types of testing that can be loosely classified as summative and formative. Summative tests, like PARCC and the ACT, determine what a person knows at a certain point in time (or has been coached into storing in short term memory).  They are not intended to be used as a tool for future learning. Formative testing is used to guide future learning.   Formative tests are designed to provide immediate feedback that can be used to help teachers identify knowledge gaps and misunderstandings and to drive future individualized learning plans for their students.


Louisiana’s premier summative test iscalled PARCC by the State Superintendent John White.  The idea behind giving the PARCC exam to Louisiana children is not to help children learn; the assessment scores don’t get released until 6 or 7 months of learning later. These assessments are designed to inform the state which schools are delivering the highest scores on these tests, and which teachers seem to be having the greatest impact on these scores. 


PARCC tests are very long.  They are much more expensive than the previous LEAP and iLEAP tests Louisiana used previously. Test prep for them is often very excessive and detracts from real long-term learning.  Louisiana does not even have a contract to provide the real PARCC test even if it wanted to. 


What this means it that for this year Louisiana is planning to give a “mystery test” they identify as PARCC (for political reasons) that is not comparable to anything we have done previously.  This is a test which will not be comparable to a test given in any other state and a test we are very unlikely to use in the future. For this year it is time to park plans for standardized testing.  The parents I’ve spoken with want education to be about learning, not summative testing to evaluate a child’s teacher or school. Parents can register their objections to this type of testing (in lieu of teaching) by refusing to allow their children to participate, or “opting out.”  It is time for a change.  It is time to move on.


Jason France


Baton Rouge


8 thoughts on “To PARCC or Move On

  1. We are hearing conflicting accounts as to whether parents can legally opt their children out. Some information is that, by law, every public school is obligated to test every child in attendance. Is it correct that even if a parent opts them out in writing the student will be tested if they are at school because of the school’s state legal obligation?
    I have heard also that parents have the ultimate say so. So do they keep kids home? Or send them with an Opt Out letter? If they keep their kids home, attendance laws kick in. I also know that in practice schools rarely retain students with decent end of year grades, even with attendance issues. There are so many versions of this it is really confusing.
    There will be consequences for students and for schools, but we really aren’t sure yet what those consequences will ultimately be. My feeling is that historically, parents have the last word in their child’s education. However, I would like to know if there is a legal precedence that parents can make the choice and that schools are legally required to honor that choice if the child is in attendance on testing day. I feel like everyone has an opinion, but is there a legal opinion on this?
    I hope that BESE does the right thing and puts a moratorium on school letter grades so our kids can have time to transition this year. Or better yet, wouldn’t it be wonderful if there were no standardized tests and teachers were allowed to teach? Then we wouldn’t even be having this conversation! Unlike many others, I have actually attempted to take the PARCC sample test items. Incredibly confusing, and I have a Masters degree. My gut tells me this will be a disaster if we continue on this course.

    1. I don’t think there is a legal precedent. I don’t know of any legal sanctions or requirements for parents or students.
      Jindal has issued a non-binding decree to forbid consequences for anyone. However he will be eager to help any wronged parents for political reasons. Attendance laws are definitely an issue. There is a risk if parents send kids to school with an opt out letter it will not be honored. I would get guarantees from my local superintendent that it would be honored and hold them to it. Parents could instruct kids to have “fun” with the test answers (bubbling or answering randomly) but that would set a bad precedent in kid’s minds and would not be my recommended solution.

  2. It’s not fair that the school will suffer the consequence of a zero score for children who don’t test. Our schools have been working really hard to prepare our kids for this test. Of course, this is all by design.

    1. I don’t think they will. Those can be adjusted. However what will those scores really mean anyways? You took the test. Do you think the scores will be meaningful representations of your effort?

  3. I don’t know how the scores can be adjusted, but I do know that the tests definitely will NOT be a true representation of what our students really know and can do. Everyone should take the practice test. i am especially worried for our high poverty and special education students. We are setting our kids up for failure.

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