White pushes tests to school leaders _lowres

Advocate Photo by WILL SENTELL -- State Superintendent of Education John White is shown speaking with reporters in this July 17, 2014, Advocate file photo.

The controversial Common Core tests that students take in the spring will offer valuable state-to-state comparisons, state Superintendent of Education John White told local superintendents Thursday.

The exams will come from a consortium called the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC.

Whether to use the assessments has sparked controversy for months, and Gov. Bobby Jindal is trying to derail test plans pushed by his hand-picked state superintendent.

However, a judge on Aug. 23 issued an injunction to lift the Jindal administration’s suspension of two state test contracts, which paved the way for PARCC test plans to proceed.

The governor’s team is appealing the ruling, and what happens to springtime test plans if the decision is reversed is unclear.

“The Department of Education has two options under the law: either follow the same testing arrangement used in the 2013-14 school year or issue an RFP (request for proposals) for an assessment for next year,” Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols said in a prepared statement issued on Thursday.

“We continue to have serious concerns with DOE’s intended use of the current contracts,” Nichols said.

White provided an update on the issue to the 21-member Superintendents’ Advisory Council, which offers input on key policy issues to the state Department of Education and the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Students in grades three through eight are scheduled to take the tests in English and math.

Other states in the PARCC consortium will use similar cut scores based on five levels: minimal command, partial command, moderate command, strong command and distinguished command.

White said Louisiana “will get credit for comparing ourselves to other states.”

What constitutes proficiency on the Common Core exams has not been decided.

Common Core represents new rules in reading, writing and math that students are supposed to know in each grade.

Backers say the overhaul, which has been endorsed by more than 40 states, will improve student achievement.

Jindal and other critics say the new standards represent intrusion by the federal government in local school issues.

White noted that Louisiana educators helped develop the PARCC questions, which were field tested this spring.

Whether students in grades five through will use pencil and paper or computers is unclear.

The state initially planned for those students to take the tests online, but controversy surrounding the issue means that may change.

White said a decision will be announced in the next two weeks.

Students in grades three through four will use pencil and paper.

Students in grades three through eight will be tested on science and social studies through LEAP and iLEAP, which is the standardized exams that the state previously relied on for its key exams.

End-of-course assessments for high school students will remain the same in English, math, science and social studies.

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