Education Department memo says test legislation too broad
A Common Core test bill that may be heard in the Louisiana Legislature on Monday morning is so broad it would trigger “academic chaos” in Louisiana’s public school system, according to an internal memorandum prepared for top officials of the state Department of Education.
The legislation, while aimed at the Common Core test known as PARCC, also would jeopardize the administration of the college readiness test the ACT, an assessment for college credit called Advanced Placement and numerous other exams, a two-page memo sent to state Superintendent of Education John White says.
The measure would leave teachers in the dark about which tests would be given yearly, cripple efforts to aid students in advance of the quizzes and torpedo efforts by local school districts to align curricula to tests, wrote Bill Morrison, assistant superintendent for the department’s Office of Assessment.
“It would create academic chaos in 2014 and potentially in future years as well,” Morrison’s memo says.
It is sponsored by state Rep. Brett Geymann, R-Lake Charles, a top critic of Common Core.
Geymann also is a leading opponent of the test that the state plans to use to measure how well students in grades three through eight are meeting the new standards in reading, writing and math.
The tests are being developed by a consortium, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.
Geymann disputed the department’s take on his bill.
“It is not going to cause chaos,” he said Sunday.
“The concern for me and others is that we have never had a discussion about the fiscal impact or PARCC or any other national assessment,” Geymann said.
“If it is that good, if PARCC is the best test, then we shouldn’t be afraid of having the sun shine on it,” he added.
Common Core is scheduled to take full effect for the 2014-15 school year, and the tests are set to be given in spring 2015.
Louisiana is one of 16 states and the District of Columbia that plan to use the consortium.
However, Geymann’s HB380 would ban the use of state funds for the implementation or administration of any tests developed by PARCC or the other main test group, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.
The spending ban also would apply to “any other equivalent national group or consortium unless specifically authorized by law.”
Morrison wrote that requiring legislative approval before any spending on tests “would confuse the education system at every level, would hinder several critical statewide initiatives and may lead to violations of federal and state law.”
He said that, aside from PARCC, the spending ban would cover the ACT, Advanced Placement, an elementary literacy testing system called DIBELS Next, a modified ACT exam called WorkKeys and others because they would be overseen by groups equivalent to PARCC.
“The bill would require each of the above assessments to be approved by the Legislature prior to being purchased,” the memo says.
For the 2014-15 school year, Morrison wrote, “The bill would prevent the Department of Education from providing assurances to the education system of tests to be administered the following school year until the legislative session was concluded in June.
“This means that teachers would leave school every year without knowing the tests students would take the following year,” according to the memo.
The dispute is the latest flare-up in a sessionlong battle over the new standards, which the state adopted in 2010.
Backers say Common Core, which has been endorsed by 43 states, will better prepare students for college and careers and improve student achievement.
Opponents contend the academic goals lack enough parental input, that federal officials were too heavily involved and that the PARCC test poses student data privacy and other concerns.
Earlier this year, Geymann sponsored a bill to derail PARCC, but it failed in the House Education Committee.
Geymann and other Common Core critics argue that Gov. Bobby Jindal has the unilateral authority to end any state participation in PARCC.
The governor has said that may be an option if lawmakers fail to act.