White restates Common Core support

State Superintendent of Education John White said Tuesday that continuing acrimony over Common Core test plans has sparked a “state of chaos” for teachers already planning exams for next year — a comment that suggests a widening split between him and Gov. Bobby Jindal.

“Just from a teacher’s perspective, it is deeply confusing and probably troubling that they now go into the remainder of the school year with leadership across state government not giving them the clarity they need and deserve and they have had for several years,” White said.

The superintendent’s comments came one day after Jindal, who pushed White for the job, said he thinks it is a “very viable option” for him to order the state to drop its testing plans if state lawmakers fail to act.

Jindal’s comments were included in a prepared statement after eight state House members told him they think he has the authority to order an end to exam plans, without a new state law.

White said Tuesday that the state’s 2010 agreement on PARCC makes clear that withdrawing would require the approval of him, the governor and the president of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Neither White nor BESE President Chas Roemer favor withdrawal.

Louisiana is part of a testing consortium called the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Career.

The group is supposed to provide tests in reading, writing and math that students from grades three through eight are set to take in spring 2015 to see how they are mastering the new academic standards called Common Core.

White said scrubbing plans would cause problems.

“What would we do? We don’t have a test for next year. We have been planning for years, it is no secret, to purchase this test,” he said of PARCC.

“There has been no test developed that is a Louisiana-specific test,” White said.

“You really need to develop those tests a year in advance. We don’t have the money to do that. It is extremely expensive to develop a state-specific test. We just don’t have time to do it. School is almost over.”

He said that, without a test, the state would have new academic standards without knowing whether students are mastering them.

“They (teachers) have been on a four-year transition that has now been thrown into a state of chaos,” White said.

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

Other critics say they have student privacy and other concerns about PARCC.

White is one of the state’s top backers of Common Core and PARCC.

Jindal earlier this month backed two bills that would scrap Common Core and shelve PARCC, both of which failed in the House Education Committee.

White was hired by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education after months of urging by Jindal.

The superintendent said he has not discussed differences on the issue with the governor.

“I think it is just a shame from the teacher’s perspective,” White said of the debate over test plans. “You really have no idea whether to go right or go left.”

In their letter, the eight lawmakers also said Common Core and the PARCC tests would be costly at a time when state finances are iffy.

White said the state would lose “hundreds of millions of dollars” from the federal government that are based on plans for students to take the PARCC exams.

“It is their plan, to develop a Louisiana-specific test from scratch, that is cost-prohibitive,” he said of state legislators.