Students give Common Core tests high marks

In the first trial run, most students gave the controversial Common Core tests high marks and said the exams were easier or about the same as their current schoolwork, the state Department of Education announced Sunday.

The survey results were released on the eve of a key House Appropriations Committee hearing at 9 a.m. Monday.

The agenda includes a bill that would ban the use of state funds for the implementation or administration of any tests developed by PARCC, which is a consortium that stands for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.

The exams are supposed to measure what students know about Common Core, which represents new academic standards in reading, writing and math that Louisiana and 42 other states have adopted.

About 25,000 Louisiana public school students in grades three through 11 took the tests during the last week of March and first two weeks of April.

The department said that, in a survey, nearly 70 percent of students who answered said the PARCC tests were easier or about the same as their current schoolwork and nearly 85 percent said none or few questions touched on materials they had not discussed in class.

The agency said nearly 78 percent of students favored the online assessments over paper and pencil.

Both were used.

“We have never been more ready for a test than we are for this one,” said state Superintendent of Education John White, the state’s top proponent of Common Core and the tests that go with it.

“In general, I think, it is another validation that the direction our education system is headed is the right one,” White said.

State Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, a critic of the PARCC assessments, disagreed.

Henry said Sunday the students’ comments were out of step with what school administrators have said, and he noted that the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has approved a two-year delay to soften the impact of the exams.

“The students are saying it is OK, the administrators are saying they are not ready for it and the BESE has delayed it as well,” he said.

“So, clearly, that is even greater reason for us to spend a little more time trying to figure out what the best process is and whether or not this test is best for Louisiana students,” Henry added.

Gov. Bobby Jindal and other critics have questioned the merits of a “one size fits all” exam, and the governor has said he thinks he has the option of unilaterally ordering the state to drop the tests if lawmakers fail to act by adjournment on June 2.

State Rep. Brett Geymann, R-Lake Charles, and 16 other state House members also sent Jindal a letter on Friday that says they think he can undo test plans through the Administrative Procedures Act.

Common Core is supposed to take full effect in Louisiana and other states during the 2014-15 school year.

Students in grades three through eight are scheduled to take the exams in earnest starting in spring 2015.

Those in grades three and four will take the assessments on paper.

Students in grades five through eight will take the computer-based version.

High school students will be tested on Common Core through the ACT, which measures college readiness.

In the trial run, White said test takers were given the option of filling out the survey and about half did — around 12,500.

“Nothing stood out as a concern that we weren’t expecting,” he said.

Common Core is designed to better prepare students for college and career, which backers say can be done through more rigorous classes that cover less material but are more in-depth.

Opponents say the overhaul is top-heavy with federal involvement and lacks adequate parental input.

A second trial run, also with about 25,000 students, is set to begin on Monday and last through June 6.

The trials, with the results due in the fall, are aimed more at the test format than how students fared.

“We are really testing the test rather than testing the students,” White said.