Schools forge ahead amid Core battle

Published 10:25 am Monday, July 21, 2014

The Washington Parish School System will not be sidetracked by uncertainty over standardized testing for the new school year, Superintendent Darrell Fairburn said during Thursday’s School Board meeting.

Gov. Bobby Jindal and Education Superintendent John White had met earlier that evening in an attempt to come to a resolution on the plan for testing third- through eighth-grade students during the upcoming school year.

Their first sit-down talk since the governor suspended contracts with the supplier of the tests aligned to the standards Common Core State Standards yielded no agreement, however.

“We’re not in a better place from the policy perspective than we were two weeks ago,” White told the Associated Press.

Jindal, once a supporter of the standards that have been adopted by more than 40 states, including Louisiana, suspended the PARCC testing contracts in an attempt to block the standards.

He said the education department did not follow state contracting law and must seek competitive bids.

“I made it clear to Superintendent White that it is important for the Louisiana Department of Education to follow the law,” he said in his statement about the meeting. “Procurement law is designed to protect taxpayers and it must be followed.”

White, though, holds that Jindal has overreached his authority by attempting to get around education policy that has been set by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and upheld by state legislators.

Referencing that meeting during his comments Thursday night, Fairburn said the discussions between Jindal and White are not his big concern.

He said the parish system, set to begin the 2014-15 school year on Aug. 8, will remained focused educating students and preparing them for success.

“Whatever test they decide, we’re ready to take it whenever they give it to us,” he said.

He said the system, which earned a B grade with its most recent district performance score, will concentrate on how it got to that point and how it can continue to improve.

“We won’t let those outside things that we can’t control or do anything about take us off our focus,” he said.

Although the Bogalusa City School System officially had no comment regarding the latest developments in the state’s Common Core saga, at the Bogalusa City School Board’s last committee meeting, Secondary Curriculum and Instruction Supervisor April Nobles addressed the issue at the request of board member Eleanor Duke.

“The standards are just standards,” she said. “We already have our own control. It’s the PARCC assessment that is the issue.”

She and some board members also said they believe the transition should have been a bit slower and that suddenly throwing older students into the new standards posed some problems.

Other problems, she said, have arisen because Common Core has not always been presented in the right way.

“We’re going to have to educate our parents,” said Nobles. “I really do feel like we’re going about it the right way. Nothing is perfect, but we’re going to do the best we can.”

David Vitrano contributed to this article.