How Louisiana students fared on Common Core tests will be compared with results in 10 other states under a plan approved Tuesday by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
The key vote, while technically a committee tally, was 7-4 and followed more than three hours of discussion.
Later in the day, the full board approved the plan without discussion.
State Superintendent of Education John White and other backers said setting achievement levels like the other states, plus the District of Columbia, is crucial to boosting student achievement and maximizing the value of Common Core.
“Our job is not to graduate students,” said Jeanne Burns, associate commissioner of Teacher and Leadership Initiatives for the state Board of Regents.
“Our job is to graduate students who can compete with other students across the country,” Burns said.
Opponents of the plan questioned the validity of the exams and asked for a delay in establishing achievement levels.
BESE member Lottie Beebe said putting off the decision would allow committees reviewing the standards time to study how students did on the assessments.
Beebe’s bid to delay failed.
White said the first comparisons with other states will happen when BESE meets in December, and Louisiana is expected to rank low.
Common Core represents revamped academic benchmarks in reading, writing and math.
About 320,000 students in grades three through eight took the initial exams in March and May, and the first results were released on Monday.
At issue on Tuesday was whether the state would adopt identical achievement levels — called cut scores — as the other states and D.C., so that student achievement can be compared state to state.
Results fall into five sections, which Louisiana calls advanced, mastery, basic, approaching basic and unsatisfactory.
Scores range from 650 to 850.
Under the plan, a third-grader would have to score 790 to 850 to be rated advanced in math; a seventh-grader would have to score 750 to 784 to earn the mastery label in English/language arts and an eighth-grader would have to score 801 to 850 to be categorized as advanced in math.
Backers included the Council for a Better Louisiana; Louisiana Association of Business and Industry; Baton Rouge Area Chamber; Higher Education Commissioner Joseph Rallo and University of Louisiana at Lafayette President Joseph Savoie.
“We want to know how students in our state compare with other states,” said Stephanie Desselle, who follows education issues for CABL.
Michael DiResto, senior vice-president for economic competitiveness at BRAC, agreed.
“Louisiana’s students in recent years have demonstrated impressive gains,” DiResto said. “They are up for the challenge.”
Critics said questions linger about the tests and issues surrounding them.
BESE member Jane Smith, who lives in Bossier City, said if White’s agency would release half of the exam questions, it would satisfy concerns on whether the questions are aligned with the revamped standards.
Iberville Parish School Superintendent Ed Cancienne said the achievement levels would widen the gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students.
Voting for the plan in committee were Holly Boffy, of Lafayette; Jim Garvey of, Metairie; Jay Guillot, of Ruston; Judith Miranti, of New Orleans; Kira Orange Jones, of New Orleans; Chas Roemer, of Baton Rouge; and Connie Bradford, of Ruston.
Voting “no” were BESE members Jane Smith, of Bossier City; Mary Harris, of Shreveport; Carolyn Hill, of Baton Rouge; and Lottie Beebe, of Breaux Bridge.
White has said for weeks that the vote was crucial, and that state-to-state comparisons would help end Louisiana’s reliance on artificially low achievement levels on standardized tests.
The debate took place one day after the first Common Core test results were announced, with students in grades three through eight scoring well short of the state’s long-range academic goals.
The action means Louisiana students will be in a pool with about five million students.
Other states in the mix are Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Rhode Island and the District of Columbia.
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