Letter: School standards must be high

I’m writing in response to a recent article, titled “Louisiana educators, students face reckoning with new standardized tests.” In that article, Andrew Vanacore and others mention that Louisiana’s standardized tests will need to be adjusted to align with the Common Core State Standards. Additionally, it states that because the Common Core State Standards are more challenging than our current standards, we are likely to see significant drops in student performance on new standardized tests with ripple effects visible throughout Louisiana’s accountability system.

We agree. Now is the time to think about our transition plan for Louisiana’s accountability system. We must first determine how much we can expect Louisiana scores to fall. If we expect students’ scores to drop 2 points, the effects will be different than if we expect students’ scores to fall 20 points. Some states, like Kentucky, have used students’ ACT scores to predict the decline. Since we will be field testing some of the new test questions in 2014, we should be able to use that information to help predict changes in test scores as a result of Louisiana’s new standards.

We also agree that any adjustments made to student passing policies, the teacher evaluation system, or school letter grades must be fair to students and educators. Additionally, these changes must be communicated clearly and thoroughly to the public with a transition period that provides enough time for school systems to adjust while also holding them accountable for poor performance. New standards and tests always shock a system, but time and time again we find that students and educators rapidly and resiliently adjust.

Finally, while Vanacore did a good job of describing the challenges we will face in our transition to the Common Core and new standardized tests, he failed to state why these changes are so important. Namely, Louisiana’s standards are not currently high enough to provide the kind of education children need to eventually reach their dreams.

In 2011, LEAP scores deemed 74 percent of our fourth-graders proficient in math and 60 percent proficient in English Language Arts (ELA). That same year, however, those same students scored 26 percent proficient in math and 22 percent proficient in ELA on the more challenging National Assessment of Educational Progress tests. That’s a huge disparity! We need to recognize that the bar for Louisiana’s standardized tests is way too low.

Our students have dreams, and achieving those dreams takes hard work. We need to come together as parents, educators, students and community members to support our schools as they transition to the new standards and tests. We know our children will rise to our expectations. Our job is to give them that opportunity by setting the bar higher.

Rayne Martin, executive director

Stand for Children Louisiana

New Orleans