Teacher union says schools ill-prepared for Common Core tests _lowres

Advocate Photo by MARK BALLARD -- State Superintendent of Education John White.

Reversing course, state Superintendent of Education John White said Thursday that processing will continue on LEAP retesting materials despite a high-profile dispute over a Common Core test contract.

White’s latest directive undoes one he sent to local school districts statewide on Wednesday night, which instructed local officials to stop work on LEAP because of fallout from contract arguments.

The superintendent said he was told late Wednesday night by Jindal administration officials that they informed the testing firm of plans to reinstate the contracted services for LEAP and other exams.

White said that, as a result, summer retest results will not be delayed significantly.

Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols said Thursday that there was never any justification for White to order the slowdown.

“There is no reason to delay any summer retesting,” Nichols said.

Students in grades four and eight who failed the test in the spring take it again in the summer to see if they will be promoted to the fifth and ninth grades.

Some students also are retaking parts of the Graduation Exit Exam, which they are required to pass to earn a traditional high school diploma.

However, the Jindal administration has suspended approval of a wide-ranging contract that the state has with a firm that handles LEAP and other exams.

“Due to the suspension of contracted services initiated by the Division of Administration, processing for summer retests has been delayed and all pre-scheduled material pickups have been canceled,” White said in a message to local school superintendents sent Wednesday night.

LEAP is a standardized test designed largely to measure what students in grades four and eight know about math and English.

Students have to pass the test, along with meeting other academic requirements, to move to the fifth and ninth grades.

The contract dispute stems from Gov. Bobby Jindal’s order last week aimed at killing tests that are supposed to accompany Common Core, which he opposes.

White said the initial suspension was so broad that it affected LEAP and other exams, not just efforts to kill plans for Common Core tests.

“They must have realized that they didn’t fully understand the scope of this contract,” he said of the Jindal administration.

Nichols disagreed.

She said the suspension all along applied to future assessments, including those being developed by a consortium called the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.

Jindal wants those test plans scrapped.

White and leaders of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education oppose the governor’s moves.

Scott Richard, executive director of the Louisiana School Boards Association, said White could have avoided the LEAP dustup by checking with Jindal administration officials.

“This could have easily been avoided,” Richard said.

BESE is set to hold a special meeting at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday to discuss its options on test plans, including possible legal action.

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

Follow Will Sentell on Twitter, @WillSentell. For more coverage of Louisiana government and politics, follow our Politics blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog.