school bus

Advocate file photo by LESLIE WESTBROOK

A state panel of educators, advocates and others is about to reopen a hot button issue – whether Louisiana is over-testing its public school students.

State Rep. Bernard LeBas, D-Ville Platte, whose legislation created the 25-member study group, says yes.

"Let's let teachers be teachers and not testers," LeBas said Tuesday. "We need to cut back on some of the testing."

But the U.S. Department of Education recently approved Louisiana's plan to revamp public schools, including some reduction in testing but not as much as Gov. John Bel Edwards and others favored.

The governor's allies, who support and promoted the LeBas study group, pushed unsuccessfully earlier this year for an end to annual science testing in third through eighth grades.

LeBas also sponsored a test-cutting bill in the Legislature, but it died in the House Education Committee because of a lack of support.

The lawmaker then pushed for the study group – the Commission on Assessment Review and Use in Public Schools – and the panel will hold its first  meeting on Thursday at 9:30 a.m.

The same issue sparked controversy earlier this year when the state put together its plan to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.

State Superintendent of Education John White, chief author of the blueprint that won federal approval, included some exam changes.

End-of-year testing is not supposed to exceed two percent of instructional minutes in a school year.

But White and others opposed the bid by the governor's panel to limit science testing to students in the fifth and eighth grades.

Advocates of the reductions noted that the ESSA law does not require annual science tests.

They said one state-mandated exam in elementary and middle schools was enough.

Some of those same advocates, including officials of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, Louisiana Association of Educators and Louisiana School Boards Association, are on the commission.

So is the governor or his designee; White; two local superintendents; parents; a local school district test coordinator; national experts and officials of a variety of other school groups.

The panel is supposed to study the purpose of all state, local and national exams; how much time is spent administering the tests and whether they are duplicative.

LeBas said he hopes the commission's work results in legislation for the 2018 regular session.

The panel is supposed to file a report with BESE and the House and Senate education committees by Jan. 15, 2018.

Follow Will Sentell on Twitter, @WillSentell.