Advocate staff photo by BRAD BOWIE -- Louisiana State Superintendent of Education John White speaks in the cafeteria of the W.D. & Mary Baker Smith Career Center on Oct. 6, 2014. White was visiting schools around Lafayette Parish as part of his Louisiana Believes tour.

Reversing plans, the state will rely on pencil and paper rather than computers when the first round of Common Core tests is given next spring, officials announced Friday.

State Superintendent of Education John White previously said students in grades five through eight would use computers to see what they know about the new standards in reading, writing and math.

White also provided periodic updates for months on how school districts were faring in computer preparation plans.

But the superintendent said Friday that only pencil and paper will be used after getting feedback on the issue from educators for the past month.

White said teachers and others want the attention to be strictly on academics, not computer-related issues, when students take the exams in earnest for the first time.

“This will allow a dedicated focus to the content of the test,” he said.

“It is not a reflection of district readiness for technology, however,” White said. “This is an academic decision.”

About 300,000 students will take the assessments.

The first round of exams is set for March 16-20 .

The second session is May 4-8.

Results will be announced in the fall, including how students in Louisiana compare with those in other states.

How the tests will be given has sparked arguments for months.

White and others argued that computers made sense to stay in line with the growing presence of technology in everyday life.

They said the state requirement that local school districts offer at least one computer for every seven students was doable, especially because partnerships with vendors and the federal government trimmed costs.

But some superintendents, especially in rural areas, insisted they were having problems finding money for the computers and network bandwidth, which is the infrastructure needed for tests and teaching.

Scott Richard, executive director of the Louisiana School Boards Association, praised Friday’s announcement.

In a prepared statement, Richard said many school districts continue to face challenges on electrical capacity, bandwidth and computer or tablet availability.

State officials have long said students in grades three and four would take the exams with paper and pencil.

Whether computers will be used is an offshoot of the larger controversy over the tests.

A judge on Aug. 23 issued an injunction to lift the Jindal administration’s suspension of two state test contracts needed to quiz students on Common Core.

The assessments are being given through a consortium called the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC.

Backers say Common Core will improve student achievement by requiring students to master key subjects in greater depth.

Gov. Bobby Jindal and other critics say the standards represent intrusion by the federal government in local school issues.

In another prepared statement, Jindal’s Assistant Chief of Staff Stafford Palmieri said Common Core has been plagued with problems and should be scrapped.

“Backtracking on computerized testing is not enough,” Palmieri said in the statement.

The Obama administration has offered states financial incentives to take part in the academic overhaul.

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