White: Common Core test plans back on track

State Superintendent of Education John White said Wednesday that a court ruling on Tuesday will allow officials to resume development of Common Core test plans that have been in the making for four years.

“It is time to get back to the focus of daily learning that takes place in the classrooms of the state of Louisiana,” White said.

But Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols said moments later that White’s agency runs the risk of using a defective state contract if it proceeds with its exam plans, which she said could cause financial and other problems in upcoming months.

White and Nichols made their comments one day after Common Core backers won a key court victory in the fight on whether assessments for the new standards will unfold as planned.

A judge Tuesday issued an injunction to lift the Jindal administration’s suspension of two state test contracts that White and others planned to use for spring tests linked to Common Core.

The lawsuit was filed by parents and teachers, and supported by the state’s top school board.

It charged that Gov. Bobby Jindal was illegally trying to derail the academic standards and assessments that go with them.

Attorneys for the governor have vowed to appeal the ruling by 19th Judicial District Court Judge Todd Hernandez.

White and a majority of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education back the new standards in reading, writing and math, and the tests that Louisiana and other states plan to use.

Jindal wants Common Core removed from the state and test plans scrapped.

White said that, as a result of the ruling, state education officials will resume plans to use the two contracts in dispute to create tests for students in grades 3-8, have them delivered to public schools, collected later from teachers and scored.

He emphasized that math and English questions will be linked to those prepared by a consortium called PARCC, which Jindal opposes.

“By this order we will continue all those activities,” White said.

“We will determine what the questions are,” he said. “All of them.”

White cited the ruling by Hernandez, who wrote that the testing agreement with a firm called Data Recognition Corporation “was the contract that was intended by all to be used in the implementation of the legal requirement for nationally recognized assessment testing in Louisiana, the education policy established by the Legislature.”

Nichols said that, while her office will comply with the judge’s ruling, questions remain about the contracts that the state Department of Education plans to use for Common Core exams.

“Our review is that there is a defect in the way they have structured the contract,” she said of state education officials.

Using it for 2014-15 test questions, she said, could cause problems later on whether state education officials exceeded the scope of the written agreement.

In a letter to White, the commissioner said DOA officials “have repeatedly expressed concerns” about plans to use the two contracts to provide Common Core assessments.

“As such, payments may be subject to recoupment and the vendor may be exposed to other restrictions on contracting with the state,” according to the letter.

On the court ruling Nichols said, “We are looking at all options. The reality is this is not a final judgment.”

The Hernandez decision is the latest in a string of setbacks for Jindal and other Common Core opponents.

Efforts to scrap the standards and accompanying tests died in the Legislature earlier this year.

Last week, 19th District Court Judge Tim Kelley rejected a bid by 17 state lawmakers to stop the implementation of Common Core.

Jindal’s office issued a prepared statement on Wednesday that said support for Common Core is “crumbling” in many states, with three of the original 45 states voting to repeal Common Core, others passing bills to allow for repeal in the future and three states delaying Common Core tests.

Follow Will Sentell on Twitter @WillSentell. For more coverage of Louisiana government and politics, follow our Politics blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog/.