Bill would delay implications of Common Core tests

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The consequences of Louisiana’s shift to Common Core education standards would be stalled for three years if lawmakers agree to a bill that started advancing Tuesday in the Legislature.
The proposal by Rep. Walt Leger, D-New Orleans, would mean that public school letter grades, teacher evaluations and student promotion wouldn’t be affected by the standardized testing associated with Common Core until the 2016-17 school year.
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education had delayed the implementation until the 2015-16 year. But Leger said the state should provide another year to make sure teachers and students adjust to the tougher standards before their achievement is graded.
“It’s about ensuring that we raise expectations and strengthen accountability, but making sure that we do that in the right way,” he told the House Education Committee.
The committee voted 10-6 to move the measure to the full House for debate, hoping to lessen some of the complaints about the new standards and blunt legislative efforts to scrap Louisiana’s use of Common Core and its associated testing, known as PARCC.
But Leger’s bill draws critics from both sides of the debate over the more rigorous standards, from supporters of Common Core who say no further delays are needed and critics of the standards who say the proposal doesn’t address larger problems with Common Core.
“Why try a Band-Aid? Fix what’s broken,” said Jerome Puyau, superintendent of Vermilion Parish public schools and an opponent of the Common Core.
Gov. Bobby Jindal, a new critic of the standards, opposed Leger’s bill.
The grade-by-grade benchmarks have been adopted by most states of what students should learn in English and math. They are being phased in to Louisiana’s public school classrooms, with the new standardized tests set to be used in third grade through eighth grade next year.
Louisiana’s accountability system assigns letter grades to schools and districts based on student performance on standardized tests and other measures. Those grades determine if a school can be taken over by the state for poor performance or if students are eligible for vouchers to attend private schools instead. Student performance on standardized tests also is used to calculate some teacher evaluations.
Under existing BESE plans, public schools will be graded on a curve in 2014 and 2015, and teachers won’t be judged based on growth in student achievement on standardized tests for 2014 and 2015. Leger’s bill would add a year extension to those plans.
“It seems to me a wise decision to add one more year to get it right,” said Rep. Chris Broadwater, R-Hammond.
Opponents of the bill said it would tie Louisiana to using Common Core and the PARCC tests, but the proposal doesn’t specify which standards and testing should be used. It does, however, require that Louisiana use English and math tests that “allow for comparison of student achievement with students in other states.”

MELINDA DESLATTE, Associated Press

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