Common Core test withdrawal sparks dispute

A top critic of Common Core and state Superintendent of Education John White disagreed Tuesday on how the state could cut its ties with the group that oversees tests tied to the new academic standards.

The critic, state Rep. Brett Geymann, R-Lake Charles, says the withdrawal process is unclear, and may be as simple as Gov. Bobby Jindal signing a withdrawal notice.

White said Tuesday it would require the approval of three top state officials.

Under scrutiny is the association that is supposed to oversee the tests that accompany the new academic standards starting in the spring 2015.

The group is called the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Career.

A bill to prevent the state from using the tests, which was backed by Jindal, failed last week in the House Education Committee.

The volatile topic resurfaced during a meeting of the House Appropriations Committee, which reviewed planned education spending for the financial year that begins on July 1.

Geymann said the agreement in which Louisiana adopted the academic goals raises the possibility that the state could leave the group if Jindal says so, which would end the need for a state law.

“We are going to ask the attorney general to take a look at it if we can’t resolve it before that,” Geymann said after the meeting.

“I am not a lawyer,” he added. “I just asked the question. There seems to be some doubts so I guess we will get the experts together and see if that is a possibility.”

White, a top backer of Common Core, said after the meeting that dropping the PARCC tests would require the support of three officials — the governor, the state superintendent of education and the president of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

White last week opposed the bill to block the tests overseen by PARCC.

BESE President Chas Roemer and the board are backers of Common Core and the testing plans.

“Three parties committed the state to the project as part of a collective action, and the decision to withdraw from the agreement also would be a collective action and could not be unilaterally initiated,” White said in a letter to Geymann later in the day.

Common Core has been adopted by Louisiana and 43 other states.

Backers say it will better prepare students for college and careers, and that the PARCC tests are highly refined exams that test student knowledge at deeper levels than bubble tests.

Jindal has said he opposes a “one-size-fits-all” exam.

Others contend that Louisiana needs to craft its own tests rather than relying on one set for use by 17 states and the District of Columbia.

Other states are using different exams.

Geymann said he wants to see anything resembling an economic and fiscal impact of Louisiana’s involvement with PARCC even if it shows a net savings.