Jindal, White Continue Louisiana Battle Over Common Core

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A set of proposals issued this week by Louisiana Education Superintendent John White, if approved by the state’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, could change the Common Core standards and possibly do away with the common test White has supported.

Common Core has been the cause of legal battles between White and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal since the governor reversed his support of the standards in June of last year, shortly after the standards were put in place.

The battle hinges on a suit brought against White by the Jindal Administration to limit his ability to sign contracts. Danielle Dreilinger, reporting for The Times Picayune, says White’s proposals seem to be an effort to establish a compromise in an ongoing, and very heated, debate. Elections are coming and fierce opposition to Common Core in some parishes is taking place because of what is seen as a threat to local control. The four gubernatorial candidates will hold their first education debate this week in Shreveport.

“The Common Core standards are serving our students well and we’re not afraid to take a look,” and tweak here and there, White said. “You can call them whatever you want — you can call them the Common Core standards or the Louisiana standards.”

Louisiana was a leader in adopting the multi-state exam developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for Colleges and Careers (PARCC). Next month, third through eighth grade students will take the test for the first time. The governor now wants a Louisiana-specific test instead, and White is going along with him.

Louisiana’s testing contract runs out this year, and the time has come to put out a request for proposals. The new exam must include some PARCC questions in order for results to be compared among states. The business community is supportive, too, and teachers want to know what changes will take place so that they can develop their teaching strategies and curricula.

Part of the state’s federal money is connected to annual standardized tests, but White wants to reduce the number of exams required in high school. Also, since test results determine whether schools can be taken over by the state or can put a teacher at the front of the line to be fired, White would like to delay them for the third year.

In summary, White wants an earlier review of education standards, a two-year baseline for the PARCC test from which districts and schools are expected to grow, and a new standardized test that covers PARCC and other materials, writes Leigh Guidry reporting for The Shreveport Times.

The review of the Common Core State Standards in English and math is set to begin in 2016, but White wants to move that review up to when the results from the PARCC test are released this fall. At that time, a committee made up of Louisiana teachers, professors, and parents would review the results along with ACT scores and graduation rates.

Several school districts have expressed concern that some students might refuse to take the standardized test aligned with Common Core in mid-March. The Associated Press’ Melinda Deslatte writes that White says his proposals are an example of a “Louisiana-based plan”, but those words fall on the deaf ears of those who believe that the use of the Common Core standards is tantamount to a national takeover of states’ education programs.  Jindal now says that White’s earlier review plan is a sign that White recognizes the problems connected to the Common Core.

“We are glad the superintendent has acknowledged that Common Core testing has problems and needs to be revised. This is an important first step as Louisiana works to remove Common Core from Louisiana schools,” Jindal assistant chief of staff Stafford Palmieri said in a written statement.

The changes White has asked for, if approved by the state education board, would be minor, but would leave Louisana still attached to Common Core.