Saturday, August 15, 2015

A Practical Approach to Revising Our Louisiana Curriculum Standards

Note to readers: The following is an email I sent to members of the committees of educators and citizens charged with making revisions to the Louisiana Curriculum Standards. I believe that the process for revision of the standards currently being implemented by the LDOE is designed to simply make minor changes and basically rebrand the present common core standards as genuine Louisiana standards. In passing Acts 329 and Act 342 of the last legislative session, I believe the Louisiana Legislature expected more than just minor revisions. 

Dear Standards Review Committee Members:
Please consider the following as my recommendations as a citizen and as an educator for revisions of the Louisiana Academic Content Standards being conducted as directed by Act 329 of the 2015 legislative session.

As an experienced educator, I have a concern that the Standards Review Portal at the Louisiana Department of Education website tends to limit comment to the current Common Core State Standards that were first tested extensively in the Spring of 2015. The portal does not provide much opportunity for parents and educators to compare and contrast the new Common Core standards with those that were in use prior to adoption of Common Core.  Those prior standards were considered by some experts to be both rigorous and effective. Also it is a fact that most teachers and administrators in our schools are very familiar with the previous standards used in Louisiana and could easily substitute them for any of the new CCSS if they are judged to be more effective and appropriate in educating our students.

My first recommendation is that the previous Louisiana standards often referred to as the Louisiana Grade Level Expectations for math and ELA be provided to the standards review committees, to be reviewed alongside the new Common Core standards. This would facilitate the consideration and comparison of the two sets of standards with which our educators are most familiar.

My second recommendation relates to the use of the recent standardized tests administered in the Spring of 2015 as part of the standards review process. It is my belief after extensively studying the annual LEAP and iLEAP tests for the last several years that the tests themselves serve as a critical part of the standards implementation process.  I believe that the actual performance of our students on individual test questions that are designed to measure student proficiency on each of the standards provides valuable insight into the grade level appropriateness and usefulness of each of the standards.  For example, even though a particular standard may look good on paper, it is only when we attempt to test that standard with an actual question on the annual test that we can judge the true effectiveness of that standard.  Teachers regularly conduct an analysis of their teacher made tests to constantly refine and improve both their teaching and test construction.

I am therefore recommending that BESE and the Standards Review Committees request that the Louisiana Department of Education make available to all committee members, as soon as possible, an individual item analysis of each test question that was utilized in the Spring 2015 testing along with the identity of the corresponding standard which it was designed to test. This item analysis should include the percentage of Louisiana students who answered each item correctly. This would provide the Review Committees with some insight into the effectiveness and appropriateness of each standard as well as to any flaws in the test questions now used for measuring each standard. 

It is my understanding that Act 342 of the 2015 legislative session requires that no more than 49.9% of the new Assessments to be given in the Spring of 2016 can be derived from the PARCC assessment. (Note: this is a slight correction to the original email) This means that a significant portion of the 2015 test questions cannot be reused in their present form on future tests, yet the analysis of these test questions would provide the review committees with an excellent opportunity to use the test questions to judge the appropriateness of each standard tested.  It would be a tremendous missed opportunity if the review committees were denied an opportunity to review the actual testing of the standards that are so critical to the education of our students.

Finally, I am recommending that in addition to the individual item analysis of the LEAP and iLEAP tests given in the Spring of 2015, that the review committees and BESE be provided with the raw cut scores (that is the minimum of correct answers or partial credits needed for each performance level) for each of the tests given this year along with a comparison to the raw cut scores for previous administrations of the comparable tests. This information would also provide the review committees with some measure of the effectiveness and appropriateness of each test and the corresponding set of standards for each grade level. For example, if the report of raw cut scores shows that a particular grade and subject test was assigned an extremely low or an extremely high cut score, the grade level appropriateness of this material may be adjusted in the revised standards.

Thank you for considering my suggestions for the Louisiana Academic Standards. If you have any questions, I may be contacted at mikedeshot@aol.com or at 225-235-1632.

Sincerely,
Michael Deshotels
Zachary, LA

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