- Associated Press - Friday, January 30, 2015

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Gov. Bobby Jindal urged Louisiana’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education on Friday to allow alternate tests for Louisiana public school students whose parents want them to “opt out” of standardized exams aligned with Common Core achievement benchmarks.

His position is outlined in an executive order in which he directs the board to uphold Louisiana’s education accountability system in a way that allows parents to “to act on their beliefs for the best interests of their children.” It also references state laws in directing the board to “avoid student achievement being negatively impacted by a score of zero as a result of non-participation.”

The order does not direct a specific board action but says “BESE is urged” to allow school districts to administer appropriate alternatives to the exams. The tests are known as PARCC tests, developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers consortium that developed them.

Education Superintendent John White, a Common Core supporter, said in an emailed statement that there is no constitutional authority behind Friday’s order. BESE President Chas Roemer agreed and said the order was politically motivated and “an obvious attempt by the governor to create chaos in our education system.”

Jindal, who is considering a campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, issued the order as some BESE members say they are concerned some parents will have their children skip the exams.

“It’s irresponsible for any leaders in this state to suggest their parents not participate,” Roemer said in a telephone news conference. He added that the plans being implemented now have been in the works for five years. He predicted 99 percent of parents will have their children participate in the testing.

Common Core is a series of standards in reading, writing and math developed in a collaborative effort among states. Jindal once backed them but has reversed course as some conservatives have opposed them and President Barack Obama’s administration has offered financial incentives for states to support them.

Jindal now casts the standards as an attempt at federal control of education.

While a majority of BESE members support current Common Core plans, there are opponents. Some have said they want a special meeting to discuss Common Core issues, including the possibility that some students will skip the exams.

Roemer said Friday that the issue will be on the agenda of the next regular board meeting but he said nothing about a special meeting. The BESE website shows the next meeting set for March.

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