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Louisiana Common-Core Compromise Progresses, But Uncertainty Tags Along

UPDATED

Louisiana's compromise concerning the Common Core State Standards and the aligned test is moving ahead. But that doesn't mean all the potential problems are resolved.

On Wednesday, the state House of Representatives was due to consider two of the three bills that deal with the compromise. And in a move anticipating that the compromise will ultimately become law, state Superintendent John White unveiled a four-committee system for reviewing the standards, as well as nominees to the committees that the state board will consider.

Here's a refresher, in case you need it: The plan would create a review of the common core run by the state school board, and while the state legislature and governor could reject a proposed rewrite of the common core, they couldn't make their own changes to what the state board presents. And the state would seek a new assessment that, if it relied on questions from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exam, would have to rely on a non-PARCC source for a majority of the test items. (The test, however, wouldn't be required to use PARCC items.)

Louisiana used PARCC this spring, but the state's testing contract expires after this school year, and Jindal is fiercely opposed to PARCC as well as the common core. 

Remember, however, that Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican who's fought White and the state board to get common core and PARCC removed, has not indicated that he'd sign the bill. UPDATED: On May 27, Jindal announced that he supports the compromise being considered in the state legislature, according to the Times-Picayune. A spokesman for the governor, Mike Reed, added that the next step from Jindal's perspective is to "elect leaders who are committed to getting rid of Common Core." (Louisiana is holding state elections this year.) Jindal is a potential presidential candidate who has made his opposition to the common core clear on the national political stage.

I spoke to White earlier this month about the situation. Here's a question-and-answer-style recap of our conversation: 

How would Louisiana ensure comparable test? 

Louisiana law requires the state to give a nationally norm-referenced test, or some other exam comparable to those used by other states. But if the new exam as outlined in the legislative deal draws on some PARCC questions, how would the state ensure comparability to the PARCC exam?

In essence, White said that under the terms of any testing contract the state signs, that's not Louisiana's problem: "I'm going to leave that to the testing services vendors. It's their job to say, 'This is how we're going to achieve comparability.'"

Before I spoke to White, a PARCC spokesman, David Connerty-Marin, at first told me that the sort of test included in the legislative compromise wouldn't be comparable to PARCC. But Connerty-Marin later retracted that statement and said the consortium is still studying the issue.

White argued that the ability to compare tests is not like an on-off switch, and that there are "degrees of comparability" that would still meet state law. 

What happens if Jindal vetoes the compromise? 

White gave a two-part answer, On the one hand, he said that the state's search for a new test wouldn't automatically stall if Jindal rejects the proposed deal. On the other hand, White said that he and the state board "will need to determine if its legal responsibilities are being impeded" by Jindal's veto.

In the face of Jindal's year-long opposition to the PARCC exam, White and state board members have long maintained that it is ultimately their legal right, not the governor's, to determine the content of the state assessments. A Jindal veto could therefore set up another courtroom battle between Jindal and the state's K-12 leadership over the exact nature of the state's next assessment.

But White said that his department and the board won't settle on their response to a potential Jindal veto for the next several weeks. 

"We're not at that stage yet," he said.

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