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Louisiana Officials Squabble Over Fate of PARCC Tests

South Carolina isn't the only state this week to feature state leaders bickering about whether to administer certain tests aligned to the Common Core State Standards. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican, has indicated that he's willing to have the state drop tests from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers that the state is due to give in 2014-15, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune. That statement follows a request from eight state lawmakers to Jindal asking him to end the state's relationship with PARCC by canceling the state's testing memorandum of understanding with the consortium.

"We think this course of action outlined in the legislators' letter remains a very viable option if the legislature does not act," said Jindal in a statement quoted by the Times-Picayune.

Who's irritated by that? State Superintendent John White, who, according to Politico's "Morning Education" newsletter, says he has no intention of agreeing to drop the PARCC tests, and expressed frustration with the push against the PARCC assessments.

Here's a little Pelican State history: Under the No Child Left Behind Act, the state decided to use Louisiana Education Assessment Program tests, known as LEAP tests to satisfy NCLB requirements. If you look at the relevant Louisiana statute, it reads that, "The Department of Education shall begin implementation of a Louisiana Educational Assessment Program with the approval of the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education."

That seems to indicate that, at least in the case of the NCLB law, the state board had ultimate say over what assessment was used. (Louisiana's state board is a mixture of appointed and elected officials, and the state board appoints the state superintendent.)

In an interview, White told me that his frustration isn't ultimately just about Jindal—he said he's generally unhappy that after roughly four years of planning for and implementing the common core and the PARCC tests, state officials are no longer on the same page. Lawmakers who have unsuccessfully pushed legislation to kill the common core and participation in the PARCC tests have now done an end-run around the usual process, he said. They've petitioned the governor to make a move that a) Jindal doesn't have the power to make, in White's view, and b) doesn't even accomplish the goal those lawmakers have of ending PARCC tests in the state. (Ripping up that memorandum of understanding, White said, would accomplish nothing.)

"We have a plan that is a long-term, 12-year plan," White told me. "It was vetted through months of public discourse. Now that anyone is suggesting that we should throw this multiple-year process into reverse in the last minute ... its greatest impact is really on teachers."

In South Carolina, meanwhile, Superintendent Mick Zais believes he has the legal  authority to drop common-core-aligned tests designed by the other testing consortium, Smarter Balanced. In his letter to state board Chairman Barry Bolen, Zais cited state board's decision in February 2012 to become a Smarter Balanced governing state and to begin preparing for that assessment. According to Zais, that move was conditional, and could be changed on his authority. 

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