Louisiana education officials propose to drop

national Common Core test, PARCC, for 2014-15


By Danielle Dreilinger, NOLA.com. Originally published in The Times-Picayune, link here.

The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and Superintendent John White has seemingly backed down in a high-profile fight with Gov. Bobby Jindal over testing and the new Common Core academic standards. Rather than use a new test next year developed by the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, the state could combine some PARCC questions with LEAP questions, White said Thursday.

“We will continue with the LEAP test,” BESE President Chas Roemer said.

“BESE is trying to thread the needle with a compromise,” White said.

But — crucially — White left the door open to the possibility that all the mathematics and English questions would come from the PARCC process — meaning the board might essentially continue with the national test under a different name. There are no PARCC exams for science and social studies.

PARCC spokesman David Connerty-Marin said, “I don’t see any indication they are withdrawing” from the consortium or the commitment to PARCC.

And because the governor would have to lift contract restrictions for the new plan to proceed, today’s announcement might end up being another twist in the path to court.

Although three of BESE’s officers backed the proposal, there has been no vote from the board, which would presumably have to approve any changes.

Jindal has demanded “Louisiana standards and a Louisiana test,” but until Thursday, BESE had held strong to the national consortium exam.

That’s even though the governor unleashed a quiver of administrative arrows, including freezing the testing contract for the coming year, attempting to drop the state’s membership in the PARCC consortium and strictly limiting White’s ability to approve department spending.

In fact, BESE voted this month to continue to pursue PARCC next year even though unions, the Louisiana School Boards Association and three of its own members asked it to do so in order to reduce confusion for school systems that don’t know what tests they will use in the school year that starts next month. And the board voted to hire external counsel to possibly pursue legal action. In the spring, the Legislature passed on several opportunities to drop PARCC or Common Core.

Roemer said it was a one-year, stopgap measure, and that the state would move forward with issuing a request for proposals for new tests starting in 2015. He also repeated the board’s continuing support for Common Core.

Louisiana public school students have been taking the iLEAP and LEAP tests from third through eighth grade in mathematics, English, science and social studies. Last year, the exams were rejiggered to reflect the Common Core academic standards, which lay out what students should be able to accomplish at the end of the year in mathematics and English.

State law requires that next year’s tests use “nationally recognized content standards” and be scored against the results of students across the nation. Roemer said using some PARCC questions would allow for that comparability.

White said the hybrid exams would be “not nearly as seamlessly comparable” to other states as the board originally wanted. He said the PARCC questions would be free, requiring no new approval for contracts or subcontracts, and that he thought the consortium would allow it.

The superintendent also drew distinctions between buying a test and buying test questions. The former, he said, includes adopting the scoring methods, analysis and reporting, among other services. He said “LEAP” was “a term in the law, not a brand name of a test …  it will always be a Louisiana-specific test, and now it will have some PARCC questions on it.”

The plan has been OK’d by Roemer, BESE Vice President James Garvey and BESE Secretary Holly Boffy but is not a formal board action. Roemer said he had reached out to all the BESE members and had “not asked them to voice their support or opposition” yet. But every member he spoke with agreed the state needed a quick solution, he said.

Despite the possible compromise, Roemer stood fast that developing test content and standards was the constitutional responsibility of BESE, not the governor, saying, “We do have multiple branches of government here.”

He also accused the governor of acting in bad faith for scheduling a meeting with White to discuss solutions at 4:40 p.m. the day before the superintendent was supposed to report back to the board.