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BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Opponents seeking new ways to upend Louisiana's use of the Common Core education standards have targeted public school standardized testing scheduled for mid-March, with some parents refusing to let their children take the assessments.
Only a handful of parents have taken the "opt-out" approach so far, but some education officials are concerned the refusals will become more widespread.
Common Core critics, including Gov. Bobby Jindal, are using the concerns to try to reopen state education board debate on the grade-by-grade English and math standards adopted by more than 40 states.
"Parents and teachers have clearly articulated their frustrations at meetings across the state and many of them are loudly voicing their opposition to these tests. Ignoring and downplaying these concerns are wrong," the governor said in a statement.
Supporters of Common Core say it makes no sense for parents to keep their children from testing that determines how much students have learned during the school year.
"Refusing to take the test doesn't change the fact that we're still teaching to those standards. In fact, it means nothing except that we won't know whether those students actually learned what they were taught," Barry Erwin, head of the Council for A Better Louisiana, wrote in a commentary released Thursday.
The extent of student refusals to take the Common Core tests — which will be given to 320,000 students in grades three through eight during the week of March 16 — remains unclear.
A few parents in Bossier, Calcasieu, DeSoto and Lafayette parishes have notified schools that they won't allow their children to take the PARCC test, named for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers consortium that developed the questions.
If the opt-outs become more widespread, however, they could harm schools and school districts. Students who refuse to take the PARCC tests will be scored as a zero on the mandatory testing, and those scores are used to calculate a school's grade in the state accountability system, which can determine school takeovers and student promotion.
Jindal, a Common Core supporter turned critic, has urged the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, known as BESE, to allow school districts to use alternative tests. The idea has been rejected by Superintendent of Education John White and a majority of education board members.
Common Core backers say the standards raise expectations for students, better preparing them for college and careers. They say the PARCC tests are more rigorous than Louisiana's previous assessments and allow comparison of student performance across states.
Critics say the standards nationalize education, removing local authority over content and curriculum. Others say the state education department didn't properly prepare teachers and schools for use of Common Core.
Four Common Core opponents who sit on the 11-member education board want a special meeting to talk about the opt-outs before BESE's regular meeting in March. They want to discuss ways to keep schools from being penalized for testing opt-outs, an idea supported by the Louisiana School Boards Association.
"School districts and schools should not be assigned punitive consequences," wrote BESE members Lottie Beebe, Mary Harris, Carolyn Hill and Jane Smith in a letter Thursday.
Common Core supporters say removing consequences for test refusals would undermine Louisiana's accountability system. Board President Chas Roemer has refused to hold a special meeting on the issue.
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