Gov. Bobby Jindal, who on Friday proposed letting students opt out of Common Core tests, took the opposite stance in 2012 when his office said a similar plan would damage Louisiana’s public school accountability system.
The governor’s latest view differs from those expressed by his administration three years ago on a bill by state Rep. Patricia Smith, D-Baton Rouge.
Smith’s bill would have let students skip high-stakes testing and other exams if their parents authorized it.
Opponents of the measure, including the Governor’s Office, said then that doing so would damage how the state measures public schools by letting students skip LEAP, an annual exam that fourth- and eighth-graders had to pass to move to the fifth and ninth grades.
“It would weaken and water down our accountability system,” then-Jindal education policy adviser Russell Armstrong told the House Education Committee, which was considering Smith’s proposal.
The bill failed 12-3.
But Jindal, who opposes Common Core, last week proposed letting students who want to skip Common Core exams set for March 16-20 take alternate assessments.
In an unusual executive order, the governor framed the issue as one “that allows parents to exercise their choice to opt out of the exams.”
Smith’s bill also relied heavily on parental rights in her bid to let families skip the LEAP exams and other assessments.
Jindal’s proposal, like Smith’s bill, is aimed at preventing schools and districts from being penalized by students who avoid the test.
Smith said Monday that Jindal’s turnaround stems in part from his national ambitions — he may seek the 2016 GOP presidential nomination — and is a bid to curry favor with opponents of Common Core, which has sparked controversy nationwide.
“He is just throwing out ideas that will totally destroy the whole accountability plan,” Smith said.
She said the governor’s request to Louisiana’s top school board that students be allowed to take another test aside from the Common Core exam is misleading.
“There are no other assessments that will be comparable for meaningful comparisons,” Smith said. “That is the issue.”
Jindal’s office said Smith’s bill and the proposal outlined in the governor’s executive order issued last week are “apples and oranges.”
“The fundamental difference between the two is that the order proposes an alternative assessment rather than no assessment at all in order to provide relief to parents who oppose the PARCC test,” Stafford Palmieri, assistant chief of staff for Jindal, said in a statement.
“This ensures that every child receives a high quality education and no child is underserved as a result of being excluded from the accountability system,” Palmieri’s statement said.
Jindal’s office also says there are a wide range of other tests students could take.
PARCC stands for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, which is the consortium that will supply the questions.
About 300,000 students in grades three through eight are set to take tests in math and English.
Results then will be used to compare student achievement here with those in other states — 11 and the District of Columbia at last count.
Jindal’s proposal was rejected Friday by Chas Roemer, president of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Senate Education Committee Chairman Conrad Appel, R-Metairie, a Common Core backer, said Jindal’s plan to use different assessments would be unworkable.
“How could you possibly run an accountability system?” Appel asked. “Everybody is playing by different rules.”
How many students plan to skip the Common Core exams is unclear.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Bel Edwards, of Amite, who is running for governor, said in a prepared statement issued Monday that Jindal’s latest plan is flawed. “This administration constantly touts parental empowerment, but the effect of the executive order would be that when parents exercise their already existing right to opt out of a test, they’ll be simultaneously consenting to some other, yet unknown test,” according to Edwards’ statement.
The governor and other Common Core critics hope to derail the standards and tests that go with them during the 2015 legislative session, which begins April 13.
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