Final bill approved in Common Core agreement designed to address concerns of exam opponents _lowres

Advocate Photo by MARK BALLARD -- Louisiana Rep. John Schroder, R-Covington, sponsored the last of three bills that lawmakers hope will quiet the often angry controversy over Common Core.

The seemingly endless legislative fight over Common Core ended quietly Tuesday.

The Louisiana House, without debate, approved the last of three bills that lawmakers hope will help quiet the 21-month-old controversy.

The legislation, House Bill 542 by Rep. John Schroder, R-Covington, cleared the House 99-0.

It would change Common Core exams set for the 2015-16 school year to address concerns of opponents of this year’s assessments.

The legislation requires that less than half of the test questions stem from a blueprint crafted by a consortium called the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC.

Critics contend the previous test was flawed.

Backers said those exams included input from state officials, and allowed easy comparisons on student achievement between students in Louisiana and elsewhere.

Last week the key measure in the package — House Bill 373 — easily won final legislative approval.

The chief feature of that bill is a requirement that public hearings be held in all six congressional districts during the Common Core review process.

The other change already approved — Senate Bill 43 — makes clear that when state House and Senate education committees or future governors review any changes recommended by the state’s top school board, they have to accept or reject the modifications as a package.

Gov. Bobby Jindal, who opposes Common Core, plans to sign the three bills, said Mike Reed, a spokesman for the governor.

While the issue is done for the session — lawmakers have to adjourn by 6 p.m. Thursday — it may soon be heating up again in other forums.

The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education next week is set to name 101 members — mostly teachers — to fill four panels that will review Common Core, and make recommendations to BESE.

Those reviews, including public hearings, will start in July.

“The fact is both parties trust the teachers to do a professional review of the standards,” said state Superintendent of Education John White.

“The compromise really hinges on that fact,” said White, who backs Common Core.

Officials of the state Department of Education have announced 92 nominees to the review panels.

Some critics of the standards are already grumbling that too many of the nominees back the standards.

The accord requires BESE to finish the revisions by March 4, 2016.

That means this year’s races for the eight elected positions on the 11-member state board will likely spark fierce contests between pro- and anti-Common Core forces.

The new board will take office in January, as will a new governor and Legislature.

“The next step is to elect leaders who are committed to getting rid of Common Core,” Reed said in a prepared statement.

Common Core represents revised benchmarks in reading, writing and math.

The changes were part of the curriculum during the 2014-15 school year, and will be part of public school classroom instruction in the fall.

Lawmakers announced the three-bill accord in May.

However, major disagreements remain on whether the new rules will derail the standards or only lead to modest changes.

Bitter arguments about Common Core helped dominate the 2014 Legislature.

Opponents were unable to win approval for bills to shelve the standards and the assessments that go with them.

The issue has also sparked court fights and battles at the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, which has twice endorsed the overhaul.

Follow Will Sentell on Twitter @WillSentell. For more coverage of Louisiana government and politics, follow our Politics blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog/