VIDEO: BESE Drops Common Core Testing for 2014-2015 School Year

MONROE -- Louisiana's Board Of Elementary And Secondary Education (BESE) is appearing to back down in a high-profile fight over common core with Governor Bobby Jindal.

BESE has opted to drop common core testing for the upcoming school year.

In a conference call on Thursday, education superintendent john white and BESE president Chas Roemer announced no common core testing for the upcoming school year.

"Seems like the burden always falls on the classroom teacher," said Sandie Lollie, president of the Monroe Federation of Teachers.

BESE says it will continue with LEAP testing next school year.

Rather than use the new common core-implemented PARCC test, an assessment tool for college and careers, the state will combine some PARCC questions with Louisiana-specific content, according to the board.

There is also a possibility that all of the mathematics and English questions will come from the PARCC process, which means the board might have to continue the national test with a different name. It's unknown if teachers will be provided the materials by the state to incorporate both PARCC and LEAP/iLEAP or if teachers will be left to figure it out themselves.

Local education leaders say this latest decision makes for a difficult start to the school year, just weeks away.

"Teachers, I've had several of them come in here today and this week and they're extremely confused. And I don't think this is going to make it any better," said Lollie. Because they're not sure what criteria is going to be used to make them accountable in the form of testing. I'm not sure if I have all the answers, I'm not sure if I fully understand what actually has happened, because daily it changes."

After BESE's decision, Jindal's administration continued to fire back in a phone conference on Thursday afternoon.

"How are those questions being acquired? Were they developed in the past? Did we pay for the development of any or all of the questions? I don't know how they propose to provide 'free services' through PARCC," said Commissioner of Administration, Kristy Nichols. "I think it raises more questions about how the department plans to do this."

It all started weeks ago, when Jindal ordered the state withdraw from the federally mandated common core -- which aims to bring students across the country to the same level of expectations in testing.

"If you're going to test kids in Monroe, Louisiana with kids in Massachusetts, then all the variables need to be the same. Otherwise, how accurate is your assessment really going to be," said Lollie.

And BESE has fought Jindal's decision ever since. 

"Teachers want to be held accountable. We want to do what's good for our students. Otherwise we would not have taken this job, however we should not be in a political game with the state," said Lollie.

School districts had already spent millions preparing for the switch to common core testing.

"Money has been spent, time has been spent, energy has been appropriated to the common core and now here we are," said Lollie.

Superintendent Bob Webber Of Ouachita Parish Schools says the spending they needed to do has affected their budget somewhat.

"Bought a lot of new computers, and labs to prepare for the PARCC test, and that's not a bad thing whether PARCC is here or not, at least we'll have that technology," said Webber.

Webber says he's glad they now have some direction and consistency, even with the decision coming late into the summer. He added that he is trying to stay positive amid the controversy.  

"It's my job to make sure morale is high as possible. So we're going to be very positive," he said.  "It's going to be OK...that will be the message that I would give to employees, students, parents and community."

Webber says maybe this buys schools districts more time in preparing for Common Core, if it happens.

"It's been a struggle and to take a year to try and catch up would be a good thing," he said.

But as the battle continues, only time will tell if the state ever finds a common ground on common core.

"We know where we're going, we know how to teach our kids," said Lollie. "Let's stop playing politics with our kids, and let us do our job. Let us teach." 

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