Education Superintendent John White’s ‘somewhat peculiar’ absence noticed at State Capitol after years of higher profile _lowres

Advocate staff photo by BRAD BOWIE -- Louisiana State Superintendent of Education John White

Results from Louisiana’s first round of Common Core tests will be sobering, state Superintendent of Education John White said Friday.

“The fact is we have a long way to go to be competitive with other states,” White said. “I think it will be sobering, but it will show evidence of progress.”

Results of the assessments are set for release in early November.

About 320,000 students in third through eighth grades took the exams in the spring to gauge their knowledge of reading, writing and math under the new academic benchmarks.

The findings will allow comparisons with 10 states and the District of Columbia.

About 5 million students took the assessments.

The comparison states include some of the top-achieving in the nation on public school issues, including Massachusetts, New Jersey and Maryland.

The others are Mississippi, Ohio, Illinois, New Mexico, Colorado, Rhode Island and Arkansas.

Louisiana has ranked near the bottom nationally in education achievement for decades.

“It is likely we will not be in the top half,” White said.

The results are sure to spark controversy.

Common Core backers contend the scores may represent sort of a truth-facing episode, and that they can be used to make students in Louisiana more competitive nationally.

Opponents say the standards and assessments have been flawed from the outset, and that disappointing results would raise questions about the value of sweeping changes in public schools in recent years.

The results will be released near the end of a review of the standards by a panel of educators and others, which will make recommendations to the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The comparison states relied on the same consortium as Louisiana, which was the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC.

The superintendent made his comments amid controversy over how to use the results of the assessments.

West Feliciana Parish Superintendent Hollis Milton said in an email Friday that he plans to ask White and the state Department of Education for the raw results of the Common Core exams for his and other districts.

Milton, who is president of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents, said the data will better help educators in September than November.

White said he is reluctant to turn over the results because they are still being refined.

However, he told the 23-member Superintendents’ Advisory Council on Thursday that he will review the issue and see “what we can provide at this stage that is helpful.”

How students fared on the Common Core tests is unknown.

White has only said that “some of our kids did well, some of our kids struggled.”

However, he spent much of the week touting what he calls solid gains in public education in recent years, including during a meeting Friday of about 200 Baton Rouge-area teachers and other educators, and a handful of superintendents.

White told the group that Louisiana’s high school graduation rate has risen 4 percentage points since 2012, to 74.6 percent.

That is 6 percentage points below the national average.

He said high school performance scores, which will be released in October, will be up sharply.

White said those gains stem in part from improved scores on the ACT — a test of college readiness — and an 87 percent gain in the number of college credits earned by high school students — Advanced Placement.

The AP rise is tops in the nation, White said.

Louisiana has long been near the bottom nationally in earning AP credit.

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