The Webster Parish School Board passed a resolution Monday asking the Board of Elementary Education and Secondary Education to call a special meeting to discuss the issue of parents opting their children out of the Partnership Assessment Ready for College and Career testing.
The resolution also asks that school districts which have parents opting their children out of the PARCC testing be exempt from including that child in the calculation of the school and/or the district’s school performance score as well as teacher evaluations.
It nearly passed unanimously, but district 6 board member John Madden abstained, saying something had to be put on the table.
“We can’t say we don’t want some kind of standardized testing unless we’ve got to put something on the table,” he said.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Dan Rawls said 43 states at one time adopted CCSS, and today only nine states still follow CCSS. He shared his personal experience heading a school system that was one of the first to implement CCSS in its schools. He said students did well with English language arts, but failed miserably in math. That is because students were being asked to do conceptual math when their brains weren’t physically developed to handle such math.
Some students did OK with it, but many did not, he said.
“ELA, as it was presented to us, was just a set of standards,” he said. “We had to go out and find material to teach. When we got those results back, we asked, ‘What went wrong?’ Well, I’ll tell you what went wrong. The children did not have the cognitive ability to understand the question, much less answer it. And then when you understood the answer, you had to write how you got the answer.”
Teachers, principals, counselors and others were in attendance as well, talking about PARCC testing and the effects its having in the classroom.
School districts all across the state are passing resolutions very similar to the one Webster passed Monday. However, an open letter to citizens and “education stakeholders” from four BESE board members urged them to contact their board member to call a special meeting. So far, there are four board members willing to meet, but it takes six to call such a meeting.
The letter by Lottie Beebe, district 3, Mary Harris, district 4, Carolyn Hill, district 8 and Jane Smith, Caddo member at large, said there are valid fears for teachers.
“Because this is the first administration of the PARCC assessment in Louisiana, many school officials, educators and parents have valid fears, particularly when it is a known fact that there was a 70 percent failure rate in New York,” the letter reads. “Why would we disenfranchise our parents, teachers and administrators by saying ‘No’ to a special meeting?”
In neighboring Claiborne Parish, Superintendent of Schools William Kennedy is handling it a little differently. He said there are parents who have questions but they have not outright opted their children out of the test set for grades 3-8.
“The ramifications, as far as Claiborne Parish is concerned, are that if parents opt their kids out of the PARCC test, we will receive ‘0’ for all of those kids that didn’t take the test,” he said. “That will affect our school performance scores as well as the parish.”
The same is true for Webster and every other school system in the state. Kennedy went so far as to break it down by each school in Claiborne, saying that if five students are opted out per school, SPS scores could drop as much as eight points.
However, when parents call about the PARCC test, he is encouraging them to have their children take the test.
“The test is going to be difficult,” he said. “We know that, but we want to see what we’ve accomplished. We’re encouraging
every kid, every parent. We want to see what we’ve done this year.”
Dr. Rawls, in a separate interview, said he’s had several phone calls from parents who have decided to opt out their children, even receiving a two-page letter from one explaining why that child would not be taking the PARCC test. At this rate, he said, as many as 30 kids could opt out, and that would negatively impact Webster’s scores.
“It looks like what they’re going to do is let the train wreck happen and sort it out later,” Rawls said. “The issue is the child’s parents say ‘Don’t take the test,’ they don’t take the test, but we’re the ones that get the ‘0.’ They’re holding us accountable for these school grades for funding and it’s just extremely unfair. We’re looking to Baton Rouge to do something about it, but they’re not.”
With this school year set as a baseline year, Rawls said the scores won’t be accurate because all the kids didn’t take the test.
“I think somewhere along the line, somebody is going to have to address this, because by the time we take that test, it’s going to really be a mess,” he said.