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Common Core Disconnect: Student Stress vs. School Scores

“My child is crying and beating his head on the table at night, when we address homework,” Desoto Parish parent Karen Jenkins told the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education Thursday.

“My grandchildren started vomitin’ at school,” Caddo Parish grandmother Pat Dyson said.

Both were trying to persuade BESE to make allowances for opting out of the upcoming PARCC testing, because they believe Common Core is doing more harm than good.

“Why is my 4th grader—who’s been in gifted since first grade—why is he calling himself ‘stupid’ now?” Jenkins asked.

“Common Core is just not the answer,” Dyson stated.

“We’re opting out because of the harm it is causing them,” Jenkins said of her two children.

BESE was considering its official response to the growing “opt-out” agitation around the state. More than a dozen school districts have indicated parents are exercising their right not to have their kids tested later this month. State Superintendent John White reminded the board and those attending the meeting—including parents--that there can be consequences for choosing that course of action.

“The law is as follows: One—state law says all children must attend school. Two—federal law says all students must participate in accountability. And our policy says those who do not take the test will receive a zero among their school’s scores,” White stated.

The Board was considering merely waiting to see how the “opt-out” issue plays out this spring.

“We will provide an analysis of the participation rates of testing in this state,” White explained, “As well as the academic history of any student that did and did not participate, so that we can actually make projections about school performance scores.”

In other words, the Department of Education will generate a report and see if opt-outs impact school scores.

BESE member Carolyn Hill suggested an alternative.

“Let’s just put a moratorium on school scores,” Hill urged. “Let’s not issue any letter grades. Let’s not issue any school performance scores until we get it right—and then move forward for the next year or the year after.”

A swell of applause was the audience response, though it was quickly gaveled into silence. Hill’s suggestion went nowhere.

Parent Karen Jenkins observed that most of the BESE members are missing the point—that this isn’t about school performance scores, at all.

“We love our schools. We wouldn’t have our children there if we didn’t love our schools,” Jenkins said. “But we love our children even more. And we love our children more than we do a performance score.”