Louisiana public schools will have a decade to transition to a new accountability system using upcoming exams aligned to the Common Core State Standards, while high school students won't be required to take the exams in 2015, the first year they will be given to elementary and middle school students, state Superintendent John White announced Thursday.
In outlining the new accountability plan, White said that one of the main pieces is that there will be a 10-year transition period for schools in terms of score expectations on the tests being developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. By 2025, White said in a press conference, the expectation for students at an "A" school (on the state's A-F accountability system) is that they will average a score of four points on a five-point scale, what White called "mastery" by students. Exam results from 2015 would create a "baseline" expectation for schools, White said, and those expectations would be raised gradually over the next decade.
"It's the kids who are achieving mastery, or a level four out of five," who are going on to college and receiving bachelor's degrees and becoming economically productive, White said in explaining his proposal. That proficiency level would ultimately become the "bedrock" expectation for schools. (In July, PARCC announced that a student's score of 4 out of 5 would demonstrate a "strong" command.)
Right now, White explained, a school can receive an A grade with its students on average scoring only a 3 out of 5, or a "basic" level, on state exams. At the same time, White said he crafted the plan in response to teachers and parents who said they want more time to transition to the new common standards and to new academic expectations in Louisiana.
White also announced that the PARCC exams won't be used to the broadest extent possible, at least initially. White explained that the state already has high school exams it can use, such as its end-of-course assessments, while the state takes a "wait and see" approach to gauge the impact of the PARCC exams on its elementary and middle school students. However, just for 2015, students in the 4th and 5th grades will be taking paper-and-pencil tests, not the computer-based tests students in grades 5-8 will take.
And for 2014 and 2015, the state won't be using "value-added data" from the tests to evaluate teachers, according to the plan.
These components are part of a plan that White said he plans to present to the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education next week. The plan also includes a proposal for the state to create a "Curriculum Guidebook" for both English/language arts and math.
UPDATED: Using a New Orleans Saints football analogy, here's how I described White's goal with respect to the new accountability system:
And I used former Saints quarterback Aaron Brooks to demonstrate what White is hoping to avoid:
Here's how White responded to me with his version of Louisiana's approach, using a football metaphor:
This marks the second time in a week that a state has announced a transition plan to common-core aligned assessments that doesn't require 2014-15 to be a year of full-implementation for both the tests and their consequences. On Nov. 19, Massachusetts approved a testing plan for 2014-15 in which not all schools in the state would have to take the PARCC exams. Both Louisiana and Massachusetts seem to have now committed using both the PARCC exam and their current state tests in 2015. As my colleague Catherine Gewertz discussed Nov. 20, states will have to decide how to strike a balance between moving too slowly and not seeking that schools improves, and moving too fast and causing a huge uproar among districts, schools, and parents.