Everybody Loves Apples, but not all Apples are the Same
“It is extraordinarily important that we have an assessment that allows us to compare what LA kids are doing, apples to apples, with those in other states.” Senate Education Chairperson Conrad Appel (Advocate, Sunday, August 3, 2014)
“The only way to compare apples to apples.” BESE President Chas Roemer (Baton Rouge Press Club, August 4, 2014 – arguing for assessments that compare Louisiana students nationally).
Following BESE President Chas Roemer’s Baton Rouge Press Club speech about the common core / PARCC quarrel that pits BESE and Superintendent White against Governor Jindal and a number of legislators, LFT President Steve Monaghan had a few comments of his own.
“Let’s talk about the inherent unfairness of comparing Louisiana children with children in other states, given the current chaos and the documented failure to prepare students, parents, and teachers for these changes,” Monaghan said.
At the Press Club, Mr. Roemer defended BESE’s insistence on proceeding with high-stakes Common Core tests. Mr. Roemer said the tests will provide an “apples-to-apples” comparison that “sends a message to the U.S. and to the world that Louisiana is prepared to compete.”
But Monaghan said that the state’s roll out of the new standards and the still-to-be-developed tests that go along with them have been so botched that comparisons among school districts – much less the rest of the nation - insure anything but “apples to apples” comparisons
“This fruit-based metaphor does open the door for a discussion teachers want to have,” Monaghan said, “however, the demand for apples-to-apples enlightenment shouldn’t begin and end with assessments.”
Mr. Roemer blamed his former ally, Gov. Bobby Jindal, for what he called the “fiasco” that has educators worried about the school year beginning this month. In an effort to halt Common Core, Gov. Jindal signed two executive orders, one forbidding BESE to pay for the PARCC exams that measure student progress on the standards. A flurry of lawsuits followed the governor’s statement, making it unclear how students will be evaluated this year.
Mr. Roemer said he is confident that BESE will prevail, and that Common Core standards and PARCC assessments will stand.
“We will keep Common Core because it is the law and because it sends a message to the world about higher standards,” Mr. Roemer said.
The LFT has urged the state to suspend high-stakes testing until the controversy is resolved.
“It is significant that all of the discussions regarding CCSS have been reduced to arguments about the assessments,” Monaghan said. “Perhaps, this confirms what most teachers have long suspected: the focus of faux reform is endless testing, not instruction.
“We need to have a discussion that goes beyond testing children just to label them, their schools and their teachers,” Monaghan said. “Let’s have the apples-to-apples conversation about our children’s entire educational experience.”
The disparity of resources among Louisiana school systems is only one example, Monaghan said. Some districts have a computer for every child, while in others, students must line up and wait their turn to take the test that determines their fate.
“How is an apples-to-apples comparison possible when there isn’t consistency in testing conditions from district to district,” Monaghan asked. “And that doesn’t even begin to address all the variables affecting nationwide comparisons.”
Monaghan said Louisiana lags behind others in providing teachers with the curricula and teaching materials needed to meet the new standards. Mr. Roemer agreed that the state failed to provide enough guidance, but said that is being corrected.
“School is opening with no clear sense of where we are going,” Monaghan said, “but teachers will do what they always have done. They will teach, and children will learn. At the end of the year, however, there is no clarity about how teachers and their students will be judged by standardized tests.
"At this point," Monaghan concluded, "the very best option is to suspend high-stakes consequences for children, teachers, schools, and districts until political and appointed leaders get their acts together.”