Thursday, January 29, 2015

PARCC Imitation Test Should be Scuttled

John White in a LDOE memo issued on January 15 suggested that everything was fine and that the Louisiana PARCC imitation tests will go on as planned this Spring. But all is not fine. Please click here to read Mercedes Schneider's excellent post.

Breaking News! 

Read about the executive order just issued by Governor Jindal. The Governor is on the right track, but there is an easier way to avoid penalties on parents and schools when students opt out of the Faux PARCC. Just have BESE wave the penalties! According to White, state tests do not affect a student's promotion at all anymore.

The test planned for this Spring which will take countless hours away from real schooling is going to be nothing short of a boondoggle. Here are just a few of the problems.

These tests are too long, too complex, and too poorly constructed to have any real meaning. Who ever heard of having little third graders take 10 or more hours of testing that has no purpose other than to rate their schools and to set up a baseline for rating their teachers next year? Now we hear that parents are choosing to exclude their child from taking the test, but that will give their child's school a zero for his part in computing the school performance score. How valid would it be to rate schools on how many students are pulled out of the test? Read recent new reports here,  here, and here  to see how various parents across the state are considering pulling their children out of the Spring testing.

Louisiana is no longer a part of the PARCC consortium so the test will have no validity for comparing Louisiana with other states. We already know how Louisiana compares to other states in academic performance because the NAEP test does that better than any other test and it is only given to a sampling of students. It takes only 90 minutes for the student sampling and does not require all the test prep and pre-testing now being inflicted on our students. So why do we need the Faux PARCC?

There are huge flaws in using student testing to produce Value Added Model scores for rating teachers, and the current use of VAM in Louisiana is under fire by teachers, administrators and national statistics experts. It looks like that reason for the 2015 Spring testing insanity is also falling apart.

Could we just scuttle this mess and let our teachers go back to real teaching and students having a chance to enjoy their learning if only just for this one year?

One of the true heroes of public education, Dr. Lottie Beebe, is calling on BESE to make a decision on penalties to schools where parents opt children out of the Spring testing. At least that part of the boondoggle could easily be fixed if the mandated zeros are removed or if school letter grades are dropped for this year.

Here is Dr Beebe's Facebook post:
"Waiting on a response from Chas Roemer, BESE President, to find out if six members of BESE are agreeable to a special meeting to discuss the consequences of opting out. (Rumor has it that John White (in a telephone conference tomorrow) will tell superintendents to make the call--whether opting out will have punitive consequences for students. Simply put, districts will make the decision. How fair is this process? There should be a set policy for all districts. BESE should take responsibility and not put this decision on superintendents.) Either way, this matter is too critical to take lightly. I strongly believe a moratorium on the assignment of letter grades is the responsible approach. I wish superintendent and board members will join BESE members (Carolyn Hill, Mary Harris, Jane Smith, and me) to call for a special meeting of BESE to discuss this matter."


Anonymous said...

Mike, my school has been giving so many tests (fall benchmark, 9 week checkup, winter benchmark, mock PARRC, PARRC, end of year benchmark, EOC, etc.) that many of the kids have begun to write fewer meaningful words in their essays. They are tired of finding a quotation to back up their opinion of a writing topic they don't care about. Not only that, but many teachers have found their unit tests squeezed out because of a simple lack of time and student fatigue.

To top it all off, many of the principals in our district have decided to do a "practice run" for PARCC in order to help students recognize how long the timed portion of the test will be (since it is longer than a class period, but not unlimited time like the LEAP). The class periods will be shortened for the rest of the day as a result. For the week. In practice for PARRC.

Statements like "this'll be on the test", "when the test comes", and "pay attention because the test will probably ask this" have students glazy eyed.

I used to get the feeling that the students would perform their best on the test because they loved their teacher...however, they are so tired of testing (BEFORE WE'VE ACTUALLY TESTED THEM), I'm not so sure they are even going to move a pencil no matter how much they love us.

All of this "PARRC rigor" has boiled down to standardized vocabulary lists and a watered down essay/paragraph structure that even the bricks-for-brains can regurgitate to appear like they know how to write. Genuine interest in the learning process is being sacrificed as what is being learned in each classroom is looking more like a governmental low-income apartment complex.

Michael Deshotels said...

Anomous, your description of the test prep mania in your school system is all too common accross the state? How can professional educators continue to allow this abuse of children? Just because John White was appointed the education tzar of Louisiana does not make him qualified to do this to our children!

Anonymous said...

Is it true that if a child opts out of PARCC, he will not be promoted to the next grade?

Michael Deshotels said...

The state is not failing any student who takes the test even if he/she scores a zero on the test. So they do no yet have a policy on what to do about a student who opts out of the test. It is up to each local school system. I suggest you talk to your local school superintendent.

Anonymous said...

Students not taking the PARRC will result in a zero for the school score and teacher VAM. Okay, so even though VAM is not being held against the teacher officially, many principals are still sharing VAM scores with teachers behind closed doors and using this as a basis for determining teacher "value" - we can't have a teacher with a low VAM scoring high on principal evaluations/observations! The only option that seems to make "sense" is the teacher who gets a high VAM score is "allowed" to get a low observation from the principal (for refusing to do a dog and pony show) because it is "motivating them to be excellent".

This year though, the PARRC score will not be held against the student...supposedly this year's PARRC will be used to set a baseline for future years. This is a good thing because validity has taken a hit! The LA Dept. of Ed has been updating and revising PARRC practice questions and grade level assessment guides for math/ELA as late as Jan.'s that for a moving target??

The biggest problem for students not taking the PARRC is based on attendance issues. The PARRC is two weeks. They have blocked it out as 1.5 hours per morning for two weeks. Then, if they are in middle school...the LEAP will measure science and social studies for another couple or more days. Either the child will have to sit quietly while everyone else takes the test...or the parent will have to check the child in after the PARRC is completed each morning. Attendance policies begin to affect child promotion...(no one has mentioned this yet, but it is a likely consequence).

Whoever thought it a good idea to "build the plane while in flight" was a blooming idiot without an inkling of regard for the teachers/students involved. Oh wait...maybe I am pointing my finger at a highly paid, but insufficiently experienced state superin-idiot???