Louisiana students’ test scores show an average amount of discrepancy between state-generated and national test scores, relative to the other 10 states that administered the test. Every state experienced a drop in the number of students deemed proficient by state-generated exams compared to the national exam. In a ranking from highest test score discrepancy to lowest among 10 states, Louisiana sits at number 5, just behind Mississippi.
The 2014-2015-school year was the first year that Louisiana students took the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, test. Students in grades 3-8 were administered the exam, which reflects the academic standards set by Common Core.
Historically, each state has been responsible for the creation of the standardized test administered as well as setting the standards students must meet to be considered “proficient.” Louisiana students took the iLeap, a state-generated test, for over a decade. Some states made their tests easy or set standards low so that more students would score in the proficient category although many students would score significantly lower on national exams and entered college requiring remedial help, according to The New York Times.
Louisiana considered students scoring “basic” or above as proficient while many other states and national exams only consider students scoring “mastery” and “advanced” as proficient. State Education Superintendent John White said the score needed to pass the iLeap test remained “well below true proficiency” according to an interview with him done by Nola.com.
Sixty-nine percent of Louisiana’s students were deemed overall proficient by the iLeap exam during the 2014-2015 school year, but only 24% of those students scored in mastery or above on the same test, according to Nola.com. This change alone would cause a large discrepancy in the number of students deemed proficient on the exact same test. The National Assessment of Educational Progress considers only mastery and above as passing, which is the standard used in grading the PARCC test.
Common Core has received public criticism from parents, politicians and teachers. The most public backlash came from previous Governor Bobby Jindal who tried to remove the program altogether. Common Core was implemented suddenly, with every teacher designing a new curriculum to align with the standards. The problem is not with the new standards or curriculum, “the implementation was what the problem was,” according to Candice Hartley, the principal of Baton Rouge Center for Visual and Performing Arts. BRCVPA has an average of 70% of their students scoring in the “mastery” category in more than one subject.
The changing of the standards and revamping of curriculums across the state has caused frustration with parents. Parents are less able to help students with homework than in the past. John Loflin, the assistant principal at BRCVPA, said, “kids would bring home their work and you can’t help them because that’s not the way you learned.” Parents generally don’t have the mindset or the time to sit down and figure out the new problems because, “it’s not cut and dry anymore,” according to Loflin.
“It was rolled out and implemented,” Hartley said, “in a way that was not fair to children or teachers.” Students at BRCVPA, especially the younger ones, have had success with the program, according to Hartley. However, for the students in sixth through eighth grade, Hartley said, “you’ve got sixth graders who have not been introduced to these standards, they didn’t have the foundation.” If the implementation had been different, there would have been less pushback from teachers, parents, and students, Hartley said.
The Common Core standards and this method of testing allow students to be, “better able to pick up in another school and at least make connections to what they’ve learned in the past,” Academic Dean of BRCVPA Sidney Hebert said. Common Core standards and testing make it easier for students who are transient between schools, and even states, to be able to learn more efficiently, Hebert said.
The discrepancy in scores between the iLeap and PARCC tests is alarming when looking at the numbers alone. Some states, such as Maryland and Arkansas had nearly 50% more students scoring as proficient on the state-generated test than on the PARCC. Regardless, Hebert encourages students, parents and teachers to “stick with it” because, “if everybody is on the same page with teaching number sense and conceptual mathematics, kids will be, no matter where they go, better able to pick up in another school.”
The collaborative component of Common Core is among the most important concepts emphasized by the standards. “We’re going to see some great things happening in our country,” Hartley said, “as a result of the fact that kids have been working together from a very young age.” Other important concepts students are taught using the standards are to, “problem solve and persevere,” according to Hartley.