When the New Orleans Saints have a 7-9 season — as they just did — it's natural that the front office would shake up the team to get better results next year. A truism often misattributed to Albert Einstein says, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." That wisdom certainly applies to Louisiana's public schools, which have produced abysmal results year after year by any yardstick.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) consistently shows our state's fourth- and eighth-graders to be at or near the bottom in reading and math skills compared to students from other states. The Louisiana Department of Education admits the state ranks 44th and 46th in English and math skills. Despite years of political promises to improve outcomes, little has changed.
The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test is closely aligned with the Common Core educational standards once championed by Gov. Bobby Jindal. It replaced the LEAP tests in many schools, and the first round of PARCC tests came last week. Jindal has been a fierce critic of Common Core since it fell out of favor with his conservative base, and in January he issued an executive order allowing parents to opt out of having their children take the test.
Despite the brouhaha over PARCC, an interesting thing happened on the first day of testing last week: Nearly every pupil took the exam. Orleans, Jefferson and St. Tammany parishes reported 100 percent participation, as did the New Orleans Recovery School District, according to figures released last week by Louisiana Superintendent of Education John White. Among the test-takers in Baton Rouge: Jindal's own children.
Common Core and PARCC offer a chance to even the educational scales.
Shannon Bates Dirmann, a Jindal aide, told Gannett Louisiana that Jindal's kids took the test because of uncertainty about what would happen if they didn't. True to form for Team Jindal, she blamed White. "He essentially boxes parents in; he won't say what happens if kids don't take it," she said.
Meanwhile, a little-noticed clause in Jindal's executive order urges the state's Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) "to grant [school] districts the ability to offer nationally norm-referenced or other comparable assessment appropriate for Louisiana as an alternative to the PARCC test."
Huh? One of Jindal's favorite arguments against Common Core is that it is a "one-size-fits-all" approach. How, then, does a different "nationally norm-referenced or other comparable assessment" differ from PARCC? Last week Jindal unveiled his own state-based approach to student assessment, and U.S. Sen. David Vitter likewise proposed letting parents, teachers and business leaders develop "a rigorous system of Louisiana standards and testing."
That's what we had for years with LEAP tests — which Jindal now wants to use again — and look where it got us. Truth is Louisiana's school kids have been taking standardized, high-stakes tests for years. Throughout that time, their ranking against kids in other states has remained the same: dismal. Common Core and PARCC offer a chance to even the educational scales, if we just give it a chance to work.
Maybe that's the real reason why so many parents — including the Jindals — decided not to opt out of the Common Core tests last week.