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La. State Board Not “Bound by Law” to Either CCSS or PARCC

June 27, 2014

On June 18, 2014, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal made the executive decision to remove Louisiana from the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and associated assessment, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC).

The way that Jindal approached the issue was to cancel both the PARCC MOU stating that Louisiana agreed to help develop a set of CCSS tests to be shared by all states participating in the consortium as well as the CCSS memorandum of understanding (MOU) that he and former state superintendent Paul Pastorek signed in May 2009.

The CCSS MOU was created by the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), the two organizations that hold the license for CCSS. It is a legal document outlining CCSS development, adoption, usage, future revision, and federal role, as well as the intention that CCSS assessments would be developed via consortia, of which PARCC is one. (The other is the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, or SBAC.)

Jindal canceled Louisiana’s use of PARCC tests for 2014-15 based upon the failure of the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) to abide by Louisiana’s procurement laws.  In short, LDOE did not submit adoption of the PARCC tests to open bidding. (For a crash course in Louisiana procurement, click here.) On June 18, the Office of Contractual Renewal (OCR) asked Louisiana State Superintendent John White to produce the contract LDOE had for PARCC. Well. As it turns out, White had “spliced” the PARCC contract into an existing “sole source” contract with Data Recognition Corp (DRC). This shady action on White’s part prompted OCR Director Pamela Barfay Rice to open an investigation into all Louisiana testing contracts associated with DRC. White must surrender LDOE’s PARCC-related documents to the Division of Administration (DOA) on Monday, June 30, 2014.

As part of Jindal’s June 18, 2014, executive order, DOA also froze LDOE’s funding for PARCC and, it seems by extension, for DRC.

Immediately following Jindal’s June 18, 2014, order canceling Louisiana’s involvement in both CCSS and PARCC, White issued a statement defying Jindal and telling the public that Louisiana was still in both CCSS and PARCC. However, on June 25, 2014, White issued an email to testing coordinators telling them not to send summer retest materials to DRC until further notice.

Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) President Chas Roemer is standing by White. On June 25, 2014 Roemer told the Associated Press that he is just following the law:

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) – Louisiana’s top school board is holding a special meeting next week to talk about Gov. Bobby Jindal’s attempt to derail the Common Core education standards in public schools.

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education set a Tuesday meeting to discuss “possible next steps.”

BESE President Chas Roemer made it clear in his statement Wednesday, however, that he intends to push forward with Common Core. He says the board is bound by law to use the education standards and associated testing. Roemer says the board will “follow the law to that end.” [Emphasis added.]

The BESE meeting scheduled for Tuesday, July 1, 2014, could lead to a decision by BESE to sue for an injunction against Jindal’s executive orders.  I am not sure where this would go since LDOE has no contract with PARCC. (Remember, White rigged the PARCC contract through an existing DRC contract.) Also, if granted an injunction, BESE would still have to abide by procurement laws to *properly* secure a 2014-15 testing contract.

So, we’ll see on that one.

My chief concern in this post is to examine exactly what “law” Roemer is purporting to “follow.”

For that, let’s return to the July 01, 2010 BESE meeting minutes in which CCSS is “adopted”:

9-J-3 On motion of Mr. Bayard, seconded by Ms. Dastugue, the Board approved 
the adoption of the Common Core State Standards in English and Math.

I notice two important issues regarding the above statement: 1) In adopting CCSS, BESE made no statement about rescinding the previous Louisiana standards in English and math, and 2) BESE set no timeline for CCSS adoption.

Indeed, even though BESE “adopted” CCSS in summer 2010, Louisiana schools did not use CCSS in 2010-11 or 2011-12. The Louisiana standards in English and math continued to be used without a trace of CCSS added.

So, I examined all education entries in the Louisiana Register beginning with July 2010 and ending with June 2014 to see exactly what “law” BESE had created regarding CCSS.

(The Louisiana Register is a monthly publication that provides an access to the certified regulations and legal notices issued by the executive branch of the state government. All of these go through the formal rulemaking process.)

Page 2980 of the November 2013 issue of the register includes the following:

Chapter 23. Curriculum and Instruction 

Subchapter A. Standards and Curricula

§2301. Content Standards

A. Each LEA shall provide instruction aligned to BESE-approved standards and shall have the autonomy and flexibility to develop, adopt, and utilize instructional materials that best support their students’ achievement of standards. …

C. The Louisiana content standards shall be subject to review and revision….

(The above was amended August 2013)

No specific mention of CCSS, just “BESE-approved standards.” In not specifying CCSS, these words in the Register could equally apply to the Louisiana state standards in place prior to CCSS. Nothing in the above statement binds any Louisiana district to CCSS.

As to the statement about “Louisiana content standards” being “reviewed and revised”: CCSS is not a “revision.” It is a replacement. Nowhere in the Register is CCSS specifically designated to be the replacement for the Louisiana state standards.

Roemer says he is “bound by law.” However, CCSS as replacing the BESE-approved Louisiana state standards is not recorded as a legally-binding statement in the Louisiana Register.

On to the PARCC issue.

Twice in the Register (page 394 of the February 2014 issue, and page 994 of the May 2014 issue excerpted below) the following is mentioned regarding “standards based assessments”:

Title 28

EDUCATION

Part CXI. Bulletin 118―Statewide Assessment

Standards and Practices

Chapter 1. General Provisions

§113. Transition to Standards-Based Assessments in
English Language Arts and Mathematics

A. Beginning with the 2014-2015 school year, the LDE
shall implement standards-based assessments in English
language arts and mathematics based on nationally
recognized standards approved by BESE that represent the
knowledge and skills needed for students to successfully
transition to postsecondary education and the workplace.
Rigorous student achievement standards shall be set with
reference to test scores of the same grade levels nationally.
The rigor of each standards-based assessment, at a
minimum, shall be comparable to national achievement tests,
including but not limited to, the national assessment of
education progress.

B. For grades 3-8, standards-based assessments in
English language arts and mathematics shall be developed
by LDE or developed by LDE in collaboration with other
states implementing nationally recognized standards that
represent the same level of rigor as BESE-approved
standards.

 

Still no mention of CCSS by name– and no mention of PARCC by name, either. “Standards-based assessments” is vague.  No exact mention of PARCC– and no definite commitment to consortium-developed assessments.

In addition, the term “nationally recognized standards approved by BESE” is not the same as specifying CCSS. “Nationally recognized” is a nebulous term, especially in the hands of a skilled litigator. As a blogger, I am “nationally recognized.” As a state, Louisiana is “nationally recognized.” For its mere inclusion as part of the Fordham Institute review of state standards, Louisiana state standards would be “recognized nationally” by way on inclusion in a nationally-disseminated publication.

Besides, stating that assessments will be used in 2014-15 does not excuse BESE from the responsibility to properly procure such assessments.

The BESE action cited in the May 2014 issue above is that which Jindal suspended on June 18, 2014.

In keeping with Louisiana law as such is recorded in the Louisiana Register, Roemer is “bound” to neither CCSS nor PARCC.

The Register also includes no formal rescinding of Louisiana state standards, which happen to be “BESE-approved standards.” If such standards have not been “reviewed and revised” within seven years, such is BESE’s and LDOE’s fault and does not automatically translate into Louisiana standards replacement using CCSS.

Precise language is important.

Better keep that in mind in the face of impending litigation on the matter.

______________________________________________________________

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5 Comments
  1. Thank you, Mercedes, for your detailed research.

  2. dmglassy permalink

    Yes, Mercedes, your thorough research is appreciated! I am concerned about the summer test results, however. Even though Gov. Jindal has assured us scores will be reported in time for school to begin in August, I fear John White will try to delay them, as per his email.

    “Score Reporting

    As a rough guideline, each business day after June 26 that pick-up ( of tests) is delayed will result in an ultimate day’s delay for the return of results to your district or school. We understand this creates a significant problem for students and families, especially those awaiting promotion per graduation determinations, and we hope that, either through administrative resolution or legal action, the contract suspension is resolved and services are re-established. Please wait for further communication from the Department after the BESE meeting Tuesday.”

    I see this as his way of punishing Gov. Jindal, and attempting to force his hand.

  3. White’s hands are tied due to testing contract investigation. BESE should address this issue Tuesday.

  4. I’m wondering if this official document is truth or just propaganda? Maybe you could read and critique in upcoming posts?
    http://www.houmatoday.com/assets/pdf/HC29528922.PDF

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