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Small schools worried about PARCC opt-out

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CENTRAL - Thousands of children in Louisiana sat down Monday to take a test which stirred controversy among opponents of the multi-state Common Core initiative.

It's the students who aren't taking the test, though, which worry administrators in small school districts like Central.

Administrators with the community school district said more than 150 of their 2,000 PARCC-eligible students, or roughly 7.5 percent, will not take the test because their parents opted them out.

That won't affect the student's ability to advance to the next grade level, but the blank grade for that student could affect their school district's performance scores, which affect school funding.

Central Superintendent Michael Faulk said that many students opting out will likely cost them a full letter grade from their school's state performance scores. Dozens of students are also opting out in other districts across south Louisiana, but with a smaller student base compared to the larger parish-wide districts each student not taking the test at Central affects them more.

Administrators said 217 students in Livingston Parish Schools opted out, but that's only 2 percent of the eligible student body of 12,000. East Baton Rouge Parish Schools had only six students opted out of 18,500, though that number could change by the end of the day Monday.

In Zachary, a repeat contender for highest-ranked public school district in the state, 40 students of the 2,400 who take the test opted out. Baker reported no parents opted their students out by Monday.

Many parents called their children's schools in the 48 hours before the test began to ask about opting out.

"There was a frenzy of parents calling in over the weekend and this morning to opt their students out," Faulk said.

The PARCC opt-out movement gained traction in recent months among opponents of Common Core, a multi-state initiative years in the works which intends to create common education standards so states can accurately compare their progress with each other. Governor Bobby Jindal, who originally supported Common Core, took steps last summer to try and end the state's involvement with the program and is now tied up in court over the issue.

State education officials said the governor did not have the authority to stop the tests, part of a rollout of Common Core components in Louisiana now in its fifth year. After they couldn't stop the tests from happening, parents opposed to Common Core elected to not have their children take the test instead.

Opponents to PARCC and Common Core have listed many reasons why they want the system scrapped, from complaints the process was rushed to concerns over the federal government offering higher Race To The Top status for states which adopted the standards. Many of those claims have been debunked, including Governor Jindal's claim Common Core represented a federal takeover of education and claims by activists at state education board hearings who said textbooks from Common Core had a Muslim bias and were influenced by Saudi Arabia.

The U. S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in 2012 much of confusion about Common Core stemmed from misunderstandings about standards and curriculum. He said standards were goals set by the states and Common Core which they want schools and students to reach, and curriculum is the methods and materials determined by districts which are used to reach those goals. 

News 2's Mark Armstrong will have more on what the PARCC opt-out movement looks like in the Baton Rouge area tonight.


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