BR area superintendents plan to move forward with Common Core

“Doing Louisiana standards and doing Louisiana-developed tests, I could support that. Doing it this close to school starting, I have a hard time supporting that.” JOHN WATSON, superintendent, Livingston Parish schools

Baton Rouge metro area students who return to school in August will continue preparing for Common Core exams despite a Wednesday order by Gov. Bobby Jindal scrapping them in favor of still-to-be-determined tests, school superintendents said.

They are relying on assurances from Louisiana Superintendent of Education John White and state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education President Chas Roemer that in spring 2015 the state will move forward with tests being developed by a consortium known as the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, called PARCC.

PARCC tests will measure student mastery of Common Core educational standards in math and English in grades three to eight. Common Core standards have been adopted by more than 40 states.

“You just can’t stop,” said John Watson, superintendent in Livingston Parish. “We’ve got school starting in six weeks.”

For the past 18 months, Livingston Parish teachers have labored over a districtwide curriculum. Junking PARCC could prompt midyear curriculum changes to adjust to whatever tests the state settles on, Watson said.

“Doing Louisiana standards and doing Louisiana-developed tests, I could support that,” Watson added. “Doing it this close to school starting, I have a hard time supporting that.”

Patrice Pujol, superintendent of Ascension Parish schools, agreed that the uncertainty puts schools in a “precarious position,” but she said her teachers are ready regardless.

“I am absolutely confident that we will be able to prepare for whatever assessment they put before our kids,” Pujol said.

East Baton Rouge Parish School Superintendent Bernard Taylor said he’s moving full speed ahead. After state education leaders — at the time with Jindal’s blessing — adopted Common Core in 2010, the school system began making substantial investments in training, resources and technology. Now the system is in the process of buying textbooks to help prepare students, he said.

Taylor said he hopes that state leaders resolve their differences, but he’s staying out of it.

“They’re going to sort out their disagreement, and we’re going to focus on what we’ve been focusing on,” he said. “We can’t just put this all on hold.”

Zachary Superintendent Scott Devillier said that as long as Common Core standards are in place, he’s not too worried about the tests the state uses to measure student performance.

“Whatever test we take, it’s going to be Common-Core-like,” Devillier said.

And even if the state changes its standards — as Jindal suggested he wants — any new standards, and the resulting tests, will likely have a lot in common with Common Core, he said.

Local superintendents tend to support Common Core as one way of raising standards so that children can succeed in college and be prepared for future careers.

Pujol said Ascension was already raising the bar before Common Core came along.

“The colleges say this is a good set of standards, business and industry say this is a good set of standards ... the people whom I send my students to are asking us to raise our standards,” Pujol said.

The fact that the PARCC test measures students against their peers in other states is an attractive feature, superintendents said.

Devillier, however, said that his interest in PARCC has declined as a handful of states have pulled out, making PARCC less useful as a national comparison tool.

“Now it’s no longer a national test,” he said.