- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 13, 2015

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Louisiana’s state school board on Tuesday approved a key feature linked to the Common Core education standards, a move that officials say will help gauge students’ performance compared to those in other states.

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education adopted a student grading scale for standardized tests aligned with Common Core. Education Superintendent John White said the scale will allow Louisiana public school students’ performance to be compared with students in 10 other states and in Washington, D.C.

The grading scale - known as “cut scores” - sets the scores that must be reached for a student to be assigned one of five performance levels: advanced, mastery, basic, approaching basic or unsatisfactory.

Common Core opponents and leaders of traditional public schools sought a delay, seeking more study of the grading scale, raising objections about the testing used and wanting the test questions released.

“What’s the urgency?” asked board member Lottie Beebe, of Breaux Bridge, superintendent of St. Martin Parish schools.

Despite the opposition, board members voted 7-4 to put the grading scale in place.

“I think our educators need access to this information,” said board member Kira Orange Jones of New Orleans.

Supporters of the Common Core standards, adopted by more than 40 states, say they will better prepare students for college and careers. Opponents say the standards are part of federal efforts to nationalize education.

Tuesday’s vote came one day after Louisiana’s first Common Core test results were announced. About 320,000 students in third grade through eighth grade last spring took the assessments developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for Colleges and Careers, or PARCC.

White said the test results were short of Louisiana’s long-term goals for performance, but were largely in line with student performance on the old LEAP tests that have been replaced.

“The kids didn’t do better or worse particularly,” he said.

White said within the next month, all states using PARCC tests will have reported results, allowing for preliminary comparison of Louisiana’s student performance against other states.

He said Louisiana will provide individual student reports in November, to show performance compared to district and state averages, along with weaknesses and strengths on the tests.

“This gives teachers the basis for having a clear conversation with parents,” White said.

Student performance on standardized tests is used to decide school and district performance scores in Louisiana’s accountability system. Those scores can determine school takeovers and other penalties.

But the state education board has softened the blow, delaying consequences for schools that perform poorly in the transition to Common Core.

School districts will get two years of testing results, from 2015 and 2016, before the scores affect school letter grades, teacher evaluations and student promotion. Accountability consequences will begin in the 2016-17 year.

Voting for the grading scale were: Jones, Holly Boffy of Lafayette, Connie Bradford of Ruston, Jim Garvey of Metairie, Jay Guillot of Ruston, Judith Miranti of New Orleans and board president Chas Roemer of Baton Rouge.

Voting against the grading scale were: Beebe, Mary Harris of Shreveport, Carolyn Hill of Baton Rouge and Jane Smith of Bossier City.


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