Ending months of bickering, the state’s top school board Tuesday approved a policy that would allow schools where about 5,000 students skipped Common Core tests to avoid any penalties.

Jane Smith, a member of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and longtime Common Core critic, praised the plan.

“I think the superintendents are real pleased with the process,” said Smith, who lives in Bossier City.

Michael Faulk, superintendent of the Central Community Schools District, including one school where nearly 12 percent of students skipped the exams, praised the state Department of Education plan.

“I believe the department has come up with the favorite proposal for all parties concerned,” Faulk said.

The policy will be in place for one year.

In most cases, the state will rely on 2013-14 LEAP results instead of Common Core assessments when all-important school letter grades are issued this month.

For schools where more than 10 percent of students skipped, letter grades for 2013-14 will remain unchanged for 2014-15.

That is 34 of 1,156 schools statewide.

The policy is aimed at balancing test requirements with complaints that schools and districts stood to suffer unfairly because students would get zeros for missing a politically charged test.

Common Core represents new benchmarks in reading, writing and math.

They have been in public schools statewide for one full school year and nearly half of a second.

Some critics wanted their children to skip the assessments because of disagreements about federal involvement in the standards and other issues.

Backers said Common Core will better prepare students for college and careers, and allow comparisons with other states.

How similar episodes will be handled in the future is unclear.

Students are set to take a new round of Common Core-like tests in March.

State Superintendent of Education John White, who backs the standards, said the more officials discuss plans for students who skip, the more students will do so.

About 320,000 students in grades three through eight took the tests earlier this year.

Typically, 99 percent of students take state-ordered standardized exams versus 98.2 percent this time, according to the state Department of Education.

BESE’s action was technically a committee vote but enough panel members were on hand to all but assure final approval on Wednesday.

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