Panel OKs delay in school standard

After making one key change, a Senate committee Thursday approved a bill that would delay the academic consequences of Common Core for an additional year.

The state made special allowances for public schools and students for the 2013-14 school year and plans to do the same for 2014-15.

While bills to scrap or overhaul Common Core and its tests have failed, this one is moving through the Legislature, despite criticism from both sides.

Some Common Core backers oppose any additional delay, and opponents view the measure as further entrenching the standards in state law.

House Bill 953 would add the 2015-16 school year to the plan, including a curved distribution of grades, that was approved by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in December.

“This addresses BESE policy from before the session and simply extends it for one year,” said state Rep. Walt Leger, D-New Orleans and sponsor of HB953.

However, the Senate Education Committee deleted a major change made to the bill in the House, which could cause more controversy down the line.

Leger’s bill initially called for a curved distribution of school and district letter grades for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years.

That means the total number of A, B, C and other grades for Common Core-related assessments would not vary overall but could go up or down at individual schools compared with the 2012-13 school year.

The rule is aimed at preventing a major drop in school scores during the move to Common Core, which represents new standards in reading, writing and math and which is set to take full effect for the upcoming school year.

The House added an amendment that says a school’s letter grade could not drop for the next two years but could rise if warranted.

The Senate committee voted to remove that amendment.

The measure later passed 3-1.

It next faces action in the full Senate and, if approved there, would return to the Louisiana House for consideration of state Senate changes.

Opponents said the bill would cement Common Core and the tests that go with it in state law at a time when the future of the tests is unclear.

The exams are being crafted through a consortium called the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.

Gov. Bobby Jindal has repeatedly said he has concerns about Common Core and the tests and that he may consider trying to unilaterally remove Louisiana from the consortium if lawmakers do not take action by adjournment on June 2.

Amy Lemoine, who lives in Lafayette, said there are numerous questions about Common Core.

Lemoine said the bill would put into state law “something with such uncertainty.”

Leger countered later that Jindal signed a Common Core agreement in 2010 and that the Legislature essentially did the same thing by a lopsided margin in 2012.

“It is a done deal,” he said.

Leger said his measure is aimed at addressing concerns about how the standards are implemented and that other bills are doing the same on school curriculum and student data privacy.

Students in grades three through eight are scheduled to take the PARCC tests in spring 2015.

High school students are set to take a different exam to measure their knowledge of Common Core.

Voting YES to delay academic consequences of Common Core (3): State Sens. Eric LaFleur, D-Ville Platte, Mike Walsworth, R-West Monroe, and Bodi White, R-Central.

Voting NO on HB953 (1): State Sen. Elbert Guillory, R-Opelousas.

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