Overprepping and Overtesting in Louisiana

I just received this letter from a parent named Stephanie Riley in Rapides Parish.  This letter echos the sentiments expressed by many parents across the state that I spoken with this year and last year. Education has been replaced with test preparation.  It’s a disgrace, and a reason many parents have abandonded public schools and started homeschooling their children.

If any folks in the traditional media would like to interview a mother that sees her children’s futures being stripped away in pursuit of a meaningless “score”, Stephanie would be a good person to contact.

The results of this test won’t measure what children learned, merely which parish wasted the most time on test preparation. Ironically districts with the highest test scores may have the least “educated” children.

This isn’t just about Common Core anymore, now it’s about Common Sense, and a lack thereof being shown by many of our current educational leaders.

To whom it may concern,

As a parent of 2 children in the Rapides parish school system in Louisiana I have finally reached the end of my rope. This letter is being sent to multiple individuals throughout Louisiana (and outside the state) for a reason. I have had enough and I want a response. Since returning from the Christmas holidays my children have done absolutely nothing but practice and prepare for the PARCC – like test. First, let me make it perfectly clear that both of my children have been opted out of this test. In this situation however, that is irrelevant. They have both been sitting in a classroom all day for the last 6 weeks training to take a test!They, and most every other child in this state grades 3 – 8 are been denied their right to a Free and Appropriate Public Education. Did you catch that? Federal law – F.A.P.E – is being broken. Drill and kill for ANY standardized test is NOT an appropriate education, which I pay for with my taxes.  I have questioned both of my children about activities in the classroom. While there is definitely a focus on testing for my third grader, it is even worse for my sixth grader. He has told me that they will no longer be using the textbook or stories from the curriculum this parish chose because neither addresses the ELA items on the PARCC – like test. Instead, they work every single day on practice writings for the PARCC – like exam. Half of an entire school year wasted with no reading!  And my third grader has only used her reading textbook a few times since January. Third graders not reading!! This is NOT a teacher issue. Teachers throughout this entire parish are being instructed to drill and kill. Practice, practice, practice! Test scores are what matter, not children.

Well, I am just a mom, so it has been easy for our school administrators to ignore me. Although I have had many positive interactions with our school board members (they do at least appear concerned) nothing has been accomplished and I feel as if we are all just trying to make it to the end of the school year. But that means that the children of Rapides parish are missing out. They are going to lose a minimum of a half of a year’s worth of instructional time (due to testing practice), and for some an entire year due to classroom instruction that has not been supported through the use of appropriate instructional materials. I am now reaching beyond our local administrators and will continue to reach beyond until someone listens. I am one of MANY parents with these concerns and we are not going away. 

I have already expressed my concerns locally that adequate instructional materials have not been provided for the math curriculum (Eureka), and now we have the same problem with the ELA material currently being taught in the classroom. Louisiana Title 28 Bulletin 1794 states that;        

“§505.   Local Implementation (of instructional materials)

A.            Adequate and Appropriate Instructional Materials

1.            Textbooks and materials of instruction for all curriculum areas at the local level shall be supported with adequate and appropriate instructional materials, equipment, and available community resources that support the stated philosophy and purposes of the school system”

where instructional materials are defined as;

“Instructional Materialslimited to items having intellectual content that by design assist in the instruction of a subject or course.”

Currently, neither of my children is in receipt of instructional materials in either math or ELA. Worksheets, practice pages in a binder, class room activities, etc… do not meet the definition of instructional materials under state law. I want my children to go back to a normal instructional environment in the classroom where emphasis on statewide testing is left where it belongs – on testing days. I want them to be TAUGHT not TRAINED! Let their teachers teach them! At least I know that they actually care about the well-being of my children!

Finally, I want clear, printed instructional materials for both of my children grades 3 and 6 for both the Eureka math curriculum and the Journey’s curriculum. These were the curriculums chosen by Rapides parish for this school year and if they are to be used then they should be supported in the classroom. There are no instructional materials for Eureka other than a “binder” that is filled with copies of computer print outs of classroom and homework practice problems. Textbooks were not purchased or provided by the district for this curriculum.

The ELA Journey’s curriculum has a textbook for each grade level and we received a copy of this at the start of the school year. However, this curriculum has been abandoned since the beginning of January in order to focus on practice for the PARCC – like exam. The provision of public education is not for the purpose of passing a single test (a test which is unproven and is not supported by ANY valid research I might add). Therefore, I also want my children to return to their regular educational and instructional activities in the classroom.

Should you have any questions I can be reached at this email address or at the cell phone number listed below. I look forward to a response as soon as possible.

Respectfully,

Stephanie Riley,

cell# 504-669-0803

Posted in education, louisiana, testing | Tagged , | 9 Comments

Keeping it in Perspective.

crazycrawfish:

This is another fabulous gem from one of my favorite introspective bloggers, TC Weber from Tennessee.. He kinda reminds me of me if I was good. :)

Originally posted on Dad Gone Wild:

kidsThis week Metro Nashville School Board Member Jill Speering wrote a Facebook post that started with the following question:

At last week’s meeting, an MNPS Board member suggested that there are 35,00o seats in Metro Schools that lack “quality” so I’ve been thinking about this language and what this term means. What do we mean by student “success”? What do we mean by “quality” seats?

It’s a question that I wrestle with on a regular basis. As I’ve previously mentioned, I have two small children. My daughter, Avery, is 5 and half, (that half is extremely important to her), and a four-year-old named Peter . Six years ago when my wife was pregnant, we had many conversations about how we wanted to raise our children. We both agreed that we wanted independent, intellectually curious, verbal children who would be equipped to stand up for themselves and navigate the uncertainty that is life. Well, guess…

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Posted in politics | 3 Comments

Our 2015 BESE Campaign for District 6 Is Really Underway

I’m really doing this folks.

I apologize for not writing more on this sooner, but I have been very busy:

  • meeting with folks
  • raising money
  • doing radio interviews
  • seeking endorsements
  • joining political parties
  • writing magazine articles
  • writing blog posts
  • meeting with campaign strategists and consultants
  • conducting investigations
  • monitoring state and national education policy and events
  • speaking at events
  • recruiting a campaign staff
  • learning with my staff what we need to do to be a successful campaign

In my spare time I also hold down a full time job and raise a few kids. 

We have finally filed our first campaign report (a whole day before the deadline!) 

Go team!  (Thanks Susan!)

If my eyes seem a little glazed over when you meet me, something on that list is probably why.

I have the following events tentatively scheduled over the next month or so although more are popping up every day.

  • Wednesday (Tomorrow), February 18th from 1 to 1:30 I will be an online radio guest on Libertarians Working For You with host Arvin Vohra,  http://www.voiceamerica.com/show/2300/libertarians-working-for-you to discuss my campaign, proposals, and previous projects.
  • Tuesday, February 24th, I will be in Houma (approximately 6 – 9pm) presenting on Common Core, my campaign, and the corruption at LDOE during Superintendent John White’s tenure.  Precise Time and location to be determined.
  • Tuesday, March 2nd, I will be visiting the EBR PEC (Parish Executive Committee) to discuss my campaign and take feedback.  If you are interested in checking out the Libertarian Party, come on by.  Precise Time and location to be determined.
  • Saturday, March 7th, I will only be quasi-political.  I was invited to participate at the Hammond Regional Art Center’s Celebration of the Written Word as part of a panel of bloggers from 11 to 11:50 am.  I’m sure I will have a little time before and afterwards to chat if you are in the area.  (I wish I could spend the day here but I have other commitments.)
  • Tuesday, March 10th, I will be visiting the Livingston PEC (Parish Executive Committee) to discuss my campaign and take feedback.  If you are interested in checking out the Libertarian Party, come on by.  From 7 to  9 pm at Big Mike’s Sports Bar and Grill
  • Monday, April 6th, I will be visiting the Tangipahoa PEC (Parish Executive Committee) to discuss my campaign and take feedback.  If you are interested in checking out the Libertarian Party, come on by.  Precise Time and location to be determined.

My district encompasses the eastern part of East Baton Rouge, Ascension, Livingston, Tangipahoa, and Washington parishes. 

Check the map out here: http://www.jasonfrance4la.com/bese_map

I probably have over 600,000 folks to contact before October 24.  I need your help, your support, and your money, if you’ve got some to spare. . .

Canvassing is tentatively slated to start in late April or May.  If you’ve already signed up we will be contacting you to verify your continued interest.  We are looking for team leaders in the area if you have some experience (but no experience necessary! Enthusiasm counts for a lot around here.)

Before we can effectively canvass we need to purchase materials for distribution, voter registration rolls, signs, etc.  This takes money, and lots of it. 

If you would like to sign up or donate you can do so here:

$$ Contribute $$:  http://www.jasonfrance4la.com/contribute

Volunteer: http://www.jasonfrance4la.com/volunteer

We can take PayPal, most credit cards and you can even just mail a check. (Please make sure checks include full name and address for reporting purposes.)

We can’t reach most people by blog or Facebook, but we need your help to spread our message there as well!   E-mail lists work great too.  Spam your contacts with our info (and personally pester your rich eccentric uncles for donations) and your Democracy will thank you for it.

And remember, if you don’t live in my district you can’t vote for me, but you can still contribute as often and as much as you want!  (Fine Print: Up to a max of 5000 dollars for the primary and 5000 dollars for any runoff.)

Posted in politics | 6 Comments

The Seabaugh Solution Apology and Explanation

VAM (Valued Added Modeling) is garbage.  It does not work. Louisiana’s system is especially flawed. The underlying premise behind VAM is also flawed, and no VAM assessment (good or bad) should be trusted.  Before I wrote about the Seabaugh Solution I wrote numerous articles about this.

I probably have have dozens of articles where I discuss the fallacies of VAM.  Others around our state have written dozens more.  As a data analyst by trade myself, this misuse and misapplication of data is especially infuriating.

Recently, a series of articles I wrote about an Louisiana Department of Education conspiracy to adjust the entire VAM system to benefit 3 teachers in Caddo was rediscovered, and made popular, but without all the backstory and context.  (I hope those that are promoting that story will also promote this one.)

This conspiracy was actually named the Seabaugh Solution by John White’s staff.  John White, and several of his executive TFA staffers recruited from out of state, carried out this deception after discovering it was flagging our best teachers as our worst teachers.  Please let this sink in.  They understood that VAM was identifying our best teachers as our worst teachers, and they have continued to promote this charade to this day.  Their behavior is well into the loathsome territory here, folks.

A number of native Louisiana citizens working at the department at the time were outraged by this perversion of the VAM system. They could not have disclosed it without jeopardizing their jobs and careers.  Nevertheless, at great personal risk to themselves, they notified me and fellow blogger Tom Aswell, at Louisiana Voice, so we could alert the public to this travesty being perpetrated against our teachers.  Please read Tom’s story for more specific details and background.

My intent was never to involve the specific teachers.  (VAM only has a 25% accuracy rate at best.)  Internally these teachers were sometimes referred to as ineffective by VAM calculations, and by other less flattering terms.  However the truth is in fact the exact opposite.  I was trying to make an ironic point by referring to them as “crappy” when both John White and Alan Seabaugh knew, or claimed to know, the exact opposite was true. The students of these teachers scored consistently at the top – for the entire state.  These teachers initially labels as “ineffective” were in actuality some our best teachers. VAM had classified them as our worst.

Legislators need to understand this and ban VAM from being used in the future for any punitive purpose.  They are knowingly persecuting and hanging innocent teachers in a politically motivated witch hunt that is none of their business in the first place.  LDOE is a state agency and not them employer of these teachers. LDOE should not be making judgments about them from afar; especially based solely on a  few pieces of data that were never meant for the purpose they are being used.

Sadly, these truly outstanding teachers were not alone.  Many teachers across the state are classified as ineffective because their students scored so well it was impossible for them to improve.  Others were classified as horrible because they were teaching some of our most disabled, neglected, homeless, limited English, and poverty stricken kids and learning and improvement is not always linear. VAM assumes all kids will improve at a completely linear rate regardless of teacher or circumstances and teachers are responsible for any and all deviation from that rate.  That’s just ridiculous assumption.  Furthermore, for a child to contribute the maximum points to each teacher ever your would require exponential improvement; which is impossible.  These tests have a finite range.  You can’t improve beyond 100%.  As illustrated by the need for the Seabaugh Solution, for VAM to work for teachers with students performing in the upper ranges, the tests would need to have no upper boundary, they would have to be worth an infinite amount of points.

Teachers have resigned in shame and have even committed suicide  across the nation after being unjustly defined by VAM systems as inferior.

LOS ANGELES — Colleagues of Rigoberto Ruelas were alarmed when he failed to show up for work one day in September. They described him as a devoted teacher who tutored students before school, stayed with them after and, on weekends, took students from his South Los Angeles elementary school to the beach.

When his body was found in a ravine in the Angeles National Forest, and the coroner ruled it a suicide, Mr. Ruelas’s death became a flash point, drawing the city’s largest newspaper into the middle of the debate over reforming the nation’s second-largest school district.

When The Los Angeles Times released a database of “value-added analysis” of every teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District in August, Mr. Ruelas was rated “less effective than average.” Colleagues said he became noticeably depressed, and family members have guessed that the rating contributed to his death.

I was actually trying to highlight a real problem for out teachers across the state.  I am trying to prevent more, Rigoberto Ruelas tragedies, in our state.  Great teachers labeled have been and continue to be labeled as terrible by a terribly inaccurate and unjust data system.

Part of the problem is how the state has expanded its reach into places it has no business being in.  The state needs to get out of our local classrooms.  It is not helping.  John White’s department of Education is tearing our teachers and students down while claiming it is building them up.  As your teachers what they think about the LDOE’s involvement in their classrooms.  As the Seabaugh Solution shows, even LDOE can’t trust LDOE’s own data.  John White even said this in his conversation with Alan Seabaugh.

I beg you, please do not refer to these teachers as crappy, inferior, ineffective, or anything other than mistreated by a system I was trying to expose as outrageously unfair, dehumanizing and debasing.  The legislature may not have understood this at the time, but they should understand this now.  Anyone who supports VAM is attacking our teachers and children for political points.  It’s not a coincidence that a psychologist, and not a professor of mathematics, designed and endorses this system.  It’s not just that VAM is “a little off”, it’s actually completely backwards and entirely unreliable.

The outrage here is that John White and his executive staff fully understood the implications of what they were told.  Top teachers were being lambasted and shamed by an unjust data system.   John White knew his staff tried dozens of ways to calculate the VAM numbers and could not find a credible way to prevent some of our greatest teachers from being classified as “crappy” so White gave these teachers “bonus points” as he often does for charter schools he’s trying to save from his accountability system, which is also flawed.

Initial supporters of VAM may have had the best of intentions, but VAM is not the answer and never will be because the underlying premise is flawed.  VAM is victimizing our teachers.

Instead of conceding this, LDOE and John White simply added bonus points to certain teachers and shifted the curve downward to classify a new set of teachers as ineffective.  This new set of teachers might have been outstanding too, but they did not have an Alan Seabaugh willing or able to speak for them.

The State needs to discard VAM once and for all.  Not only is evaluating teachers none of their business, LDOE and John White are knowingly doing a horrible job, and playing favorites in the process.

My deepest apologies to the teachers involved.  My intention was to highlight the flaws in VAM to prevent what happened to you from happening to others.

Posted in education, John White, louisiana | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

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

Posted in politics | 7 Comments

The Recovery School District Is Ripping Off America

The Recovery School District is arguably the most corrupt, wasteful and unnecessary state department in all of Louisiana. Over the next several weeks I will explain exactly what they have lost, how much they waste, why they are unnecessary and explain the numerous unethical and possibly illegal behaviors they engage in. If I could cover everything in a single article I would, but their scheming really needs several posts to cover in any depth. This post will describe how they have managed to steal property and funding and to exploit loopholes created for them by the state legislature to rip off the federal government. I will not be revealing anything that is not already available in the public domain.

It perplexes me why no one on Bobby Jindal’s staff and no editorial board has weighed in on these shenanigans.  Bobby has said no to Medicaid dollars for the elderly and infirm to keep them from dying, but yes to using a shell corporation to extract federal tax credits to fund RSD?  Interesting presidential choice.

In 2013 the Recovery School District (RSD) asked BESE to grant it the power to create a “shell corporation” called a Public Benefit Corporation or PBC. Mercedes Schneider covered this development on her blog at the time with the question “Why does a “Turnaround” District Need to Purchase Buildings. At the time there was some speculation made, but I wasn’t really sure what was going on. I assumed this was a formality and this building would be turned over to the Orleans Parish school board. RSD was originally pitched as a temporary state agency under the umbrella of LDOE. RSD’s primary mission was described as “turning around” failing schools and handing them back to school districts. The current head of RSD, Patrick Dobard, described RSD success as working himself out of a job. But with this purchase coupled with the latest developments, that is clearly no longer the goal.

The latest development is ridiculous, but exactly the kind of situation one should come to expect when allowing bankers and RSD shysters to get together.  RSD asked the publicly elected (through massive corporately financed campaigns) Orleans school board to simply give them the schools. . .  and they did it.  RSD has gone from being an overseer of a federal grant and recovery dollars (from which they skim a healthy portion each year to cover their own outrageous expenses), to an owner of actual properties that they will lease to charter operators and use that funding to fund themselves on an ongoing basis. 

This was ostensibly done to simply increase the National Debt by leveraging dollars the federal government gave to us after Katrina (10 years ago) to secure historic preservation credits estimated to be in excess of 20 million dollars.  This is just for the initial properties transferred to RSD.  Confused?  I would be, and was.  Let me show you the steps.

RSD is created by legislature in 2003. 

Katrina comes in 2005 (schools are destroyed.)

Feds gives Louisiana Recovery dollars to rebuild schools in excess of a billion dollars and RSD is placed in charge of managing this fund.

RSD takes it’s sweet time rebuilding the schools because this means it pulls down management fees from this fund to pay for extravagant purchases and lifestyle (it is currently located downtown across from the Superdome.)

Looking for a more permanent funding stream, RSD creates a “shell” corporation that it alone controls and owns.

RSD tries to use funds from the Recovery fund to purchase a building (for itself and it’s new shell corporation.)  It intended to renovate building and charge rent which will got towards its budget while claiming those funds will go to rebuild other schools and save the  district money in the long run.

RSD asks Orleans school board to transfer 4 of their schools to its shell corporation.  (Orleans could have set up its own PBC and retained control of the buildings.  RSD could have mentioned this to Orleans but chose not to because it wanted the real-estate, rent and credits for itself.) RSD claims it will use these tax credits to fund other projects but it is not bound by this arrangement. This money is fungible, and RSD’s budget is so complex you could never know where that money’s going or what revenue it is replacing.

RSD will renovate its buildings with recovery dollars and sell tax credits to US Bank (reducing the bank’s tax burden by millions which would have gone to the treasury to fund the military, lower taxes for us, healthcare, reducing the debt but instead goes to RSD to cover their everyday exorbitant and eternal expenses.)

 

If this scheme succeeds RSD will continue to acquire buildings from Orleans and renovate them with federal tax dollars to get more historic preservation federal tax dollars, for themselves as well as possession of all the real-estate. 

For free! 

Sweet deal.

Keeping a staff as large as theirs isn’t cheap. To put that in perspective their current payroll to run no schools is 6.5 million dollars compared to the 29 million budget for the entire State department of Education.  They are larger than one fifth the size and their current payroll is more than twice the State has budgeted for them  Is this magic?  It is.  Dark magic. I will explain their financial footprint and just what all that tax money is paying for in the posts that follow.

Posted in politics | 1 Comment

Background On the High Stakes Testing Opt Out Movement in Louisiana

Unless you are already opting your kids out of testing this spring, most folks have probably only heard about this movement to “opt out” (parents refusing to permit children to take) of high stakes tests in Louisiana in the past couple weeks.  Here are some recent stories:

The opt out movement has been building momentum in this state and throughout the country for the past few years.  I have been consulted numerous times by various organizers of this movement to promote it or provide information about possible consequences and implications.  I actually don’t have a firm stand one way or the other on the “opt out issue” but I have been linking people up with individuals that do for the past year or so.  A few of the opt out information providers in our state are Ann Burruss from Lafayette and Lee Barrios from St Tammany.  You can generally find them on Facebook if you have any questions and want to keep up with the latest developments.  This post is not going to delve too deeply into whether parents should or should not do this.  I will leave this for them to decide. What I did want to do is provide some background on this issue.  I found the background on this situation to be lacking in most mainstream outlets.

First let’s define what High Stakes Testing means.  This is a term that has come to mean annual tests that are tied to consequences for teachers, students, schools and districts.  Low scores on these tests can mean teachers are fired, students are retained, schools are closed, districts are seized by the state.  For a pro side you can review this edreform site that describes what education Reformers are hoping to accomplish.  For the argument against High Stakes testing you might try looking through www.fairtest.org and this link: http://www.fairtest.org/arn/caseagainst.html

High Stakes testing became all the vogue in 2001 with the passage of NCLB (No Child Left Behind act).  NCLB is actually being debated and right now in Congress and even Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is telling Congress that standardized testing has gone too far and needs to be scaled back.  (The original was co-authored by John Boehner and Edward Kennedy so you know it has to be good, right?)

Today some school systems may spend a third of their class time taking standardized tests or preparing for them.  I’ve spoken with parents in districts in Louisiana that claim test prep booklets sample tests start getting sent home in January for the high stakes tests we give in April each year.  Parents are outraged about how much time is consumed in taking and preparing for tests, and I don’t blame them.  I send my kids to school to learn, not to take or prepare for tests endlessly.

A new wrinkle for this year is that no one outside of Louisiana State Superintendent John White and his close circle know what test kids will be taking.  White has claimed at different times our children will be taking a PARCC or PARCC-like test.  (PARCC is one of two major testing Consortiums tapped and funded by US DOE to develop Common Core tests for the States.)  However Governor Bobby Jindal and his DOA intervened in a contract dispute and declared the way it was approved invalid and have asserted they will not pay for PARCC with State funds.  This has led to several lawsuits brought by education Reform proponents and parents groups as well as the Governor’s office and BESE.  I honestly have no idea where any of that stands right now.  One judge has ruled the state can’t block White from procuring the tests.  Jindal has vowed to seek repayment of any funds spent that way.  Lawsuits are still pending. I’m not sure anyone else can tell you how this will ultimately play out with any degree of certainty either.

Still, John White has made it clear Louisiana will be giving the PARCC exam this Spring and districts need to be prepared for it.  According to previous statements and decisions by White and BESE, no students will be held back based on this exam, whatever it is.  No teachers should be penalized based on the scores their students get for this year either.  However (SPS) School Performance Scores will still be based on these test results.  Schools and districts that do poorly on these mystery exams could be subject to seizure by the State Recovery School District (RSD) and handed over to charter operators.  Students that “opt out” will be assigned a zero on the exam.  If schools end up with a lot of zeros it could severely impact their SPS score and make takeover very likely if the school is already in a borderline achievement category and has been for several years.

Louisiana has not defined a formal way to “opt out” of testing.  Currently tests are mandatory.  Some parents are writing letters to their principals that they wish to opt out of testing.  It’s unclear whether any principals will honor these requests. My guess is students that get sent to school will be given tests regardless of any letters.  To prevent this from happening parents are considering keeping their kids home on testing days and makeup test days or bringing them to school late.  These would be considered unexcused absences.  I would caution parents that do this that they could run afoul of LRS 17:221 and LRS 14:92.2 that outlines possible fines and jail time for parents of kids who are habitually absent or tardy (truant). Enforcing those laws would probably be worse case scenarios but some districts might play hardball with parents trying to keep their kids home during testing. Some parents have taken a third route.  They have instructed their kids to bubble in all the same answer or to make “pretty pictures” on their scantron answer sheets if they have given tests against their parent’s permission.

I’m not very clear on what the value of these tests could possibly be.  Unless John White made a secret deal with PARCC to get the assessments for free (he is still a PARCC Governing board member so I wouldn’t rule that out) or PARCC has accepted the risk of contentious legal battles over any payments made, they are not true PARCC assessments.  They will not be comparable to last year.  They will not be comparable to next year. They may be rigged to be similar to PARCC using combinations of last year’s test and new items the state may have used micro contracts to generate.

What I can tell you is this.  These test booklets have already been printed or are in the process of being printed by DRC, the State’s longtime testing vendor.  When I worked at LDOE 3 years ago it took months to print the hundreds of thousands of test booklets they have to prepare each year.  DRC needed enrollment data from us in November or December to “precode” (pre-fill site code, name, DOB, grade level, etc) the majority of the test booklets give to students.  Someone should be able to require John White turn over a sample test booklet to see how they are portraying the test they will be giving in a few months.  Will they be calling it PARCC, iLeap, iPARCC, ParccLEAP?  Who knows?  What I am sure of is I’m glad I don’t have to make a decision on this till at least next year.

Would you like to see a sample/practice PARCC test?

http://parcc.pearson.com/practice-tests/

I was recently told by a parent that they tried the 7th grade math portion with their child and failed miserably.  Common Core, which these tests are based on, was not phased in.  That means many kids in higher grades will not be able to pass these tests because they were never taught the material.  Because these tests are designed for kids to fail initially in the higher, unprepared grades as has happened in States like New York that gave these exams last year, parents are concerned this will lead to school takeovers anyways, as well as some mental anguish for their children.  In some schools these tests are emphasized a great deal and a lot of stress is put on kids to perform.  Some kids can shrug it off, and others can take this type of failure pretty hard and it can damage their self-esteem.

I know from experience I hate this type of situation.  I’ve had teachers that tested us on subject material we were not taught or even assigned and it did impact my attitude towards school and my teachers in very negative ways.  I lost respect for those teachers, lost respect for the subject material, and tuned out.  It did not inspire me to “try harder”.  It just made me think tests and schools were stupid.  Perhaps now I would handle that differently?  It’s hard to say, but children are not little adults.  Scholastic achievement might be tied to their self-esteem and identity, and they may not have other experience or achievements to anchor themselves.  If I had this concern, if I thought my children would be impacted like I was, I can guarantee I would consider opting my children out.

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