PPEL forum hopes to educate local parents on public school testing

Amid recent protests from some Lafayette Parish parents over the coming PARCC exams, two local education advocacy groups will hold a public forum next week in hopes of clearing the air on public school testing.

Next week’s event isn’t specifically focused on the coming PARCC exams — short for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers exam — but rather, will detail all the various tests public school students will face in the course of their education.

The forum — called “What tests do our children take: Understanding state and district mandated assessments — is being organized by the local non-profit education advocacy group Power of Public Education Lafayette (or PPEL for short) and UL Lafayette’s National Writing Project of Acadiana.

“It’s testing season, and tests are in the news,” says PPEL member and public school grandparent Layne St. Julien in a statement included with Wednesday’s press release. “Many people, especially parents, are discussing what the testing scenario was like when they were children, and trying to understand today’s testing environment. This forum will help them do just that.”

Lately, the local focus has been directed at PARCC — a standardized English and Math performance test for third through eighth graders that is tied to Louisiana’s controversial Common Core initiative. Like Common Core, PARCC has sparked a bit of its own controversy as of late, having drawn the ire of a small yet vocal group of parents in Lafayette Parish. So far, 19 of these parents have notified schools that their children won’t be participating when the first phase of testing gets under way on March 16. (For an in-depth look at all things PARCC check out this extensive report on the topic in Wednesday’s Daily Advertiser.)

Though PPEL’s press release doesn’t take a side on the issue of PARCC, here’s what it says about testing in general:

PPEL sees assessments as critical tools to guide teachers in improving their lesson plans and framing their instruction to meet the needs of individual students. PPEL supports a comprehensive accountability system that takes into account a number of different factors that make public schools effective.

Next week’s educational forum is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Wednesday, March 11 at the Cecil Picard Center, located near the Cajundome at 200 E. Devalcourt St. The event is free and open to the public.