New Standardized Test Causing Debate In Arkansas

CABOT, AR -- Standardized testing is always a hot button topic and the debate is getting more heated as Arkansas prepares for a new type of testing this spring.

It's called the PARCC test, which stands for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. It measures students understanding of the common core standards adopted by Arkansas schools in 2010.

Over the airwaves on 96.5 tonight, Karen Lamoreaux -- with Arkansas Against Common Core -- got fired up about standardized testing.

In the spring, Arkansas students 3rd grade and up will take the PARCC test. Arkansas law states students don't have to take it to pass to the next grade, but Lamoreaux says some parents, specifically from the Cabot Public School District, have been hearing other things.

She said, "I think a lot of the local districts aren't really sure what to do. They have never been presented with this before so they're scrambling and telling parents 'well if you don't take the test, your child could be held back or they may not be able to graduate high school.'"

The Cabot superintendent told us over the phone that's not true. He said students who don't take the test -- by law -- must participate in an academic improvement plan. This usually involves tutoring or extra class time. He told us grade retention is a last resort.

Kathy Caswell says she supports standardized testing. She told us her grandson, who goes to Cabot Public Schools, typically tests in the top 5%

While she understands some parents concerns, Caswell says testing helps to measure progress and set goals.

She said, "If we don't know where our students are, and you know some school districts are struggling, how are we going to gauge getting them into those colleges?"

But Lamoreaux, a parent herself, says she'll continue to speak out for other parents who don't feel a standard test is beneficial to students.

Lamoreaux said, "We support them in their right to refuse the test."

We did reach out to the Arkansas Department of Education on this topic. A spokeswoman told us it's a "local" issue and that they would not be commenting.

To learn more about the PARCC test click here.

To learn about your options on opting your child out of the PARCC test, click here.

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