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BESE approves Common Core transition policy

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Source: MGN Online Source: MGN Online

BATON ROUGE, La. (KNOE 8 News) - The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) has approved new policies to further aid the state's transition to higher academic standards and more rigorous assessments.

The policies allow two years of additional transition time for students, parents and educators to adjust to the new standards and assessments while committing to incrementally raising performance expectations for Louisiana schools by 2025.

"As Louisiana embraces higher educational standards, it is important to make sure students and schools have every opportunity to be successful," said BESE President Chas Roemer. "These new policies incorporate suggestions we have received from teachers and parents, and match increased expectations and accountability with the flexibility necessary for a successful transition."

In 2010, the state adopted the Common Core State Standards in reading, writing and math in an effort to better prepare Louisiana students for college and careers, and to put them on a level playing field with students across the country. BESE members and Louisiana Department of Education (LDE) officials have received feedback from parents, teachers and administrators around the state during a series of in-district meetings and school visits. The new policies approved by BESE today were developed in response to this input.

"The valuable input we have received while traveling around the state has shaped this decision to give educators, parents, and students more time to learn. At the same time, our state is maintaining our commitment to Louisiana students by continuing to implement standards that will prepare them for college or a career," said State Superintendent John White.

The new policies set a high bar for Louisiana schools, gradually raising the standard for school letter grades over 10 years after a two year transition period. By 2025, the benchmark academic expectation for an average student in A-rated schools will have increased from "basic" to "mastery" level on state tests.

While the implementation of Common Core standards will continue in Louisiana classrooms, today's BESE policy approvals provide a transition period to coincide with the adoption of higher expectations and accountability for schools in 2015. The extension provides additional time for students, parents and educators to become familiar with the Common Core standards and assessments and school systems to become technology-ready, and includes the following components:

Grade 3-8 students will take the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessment in 2015 (on paper in grades 3-4, computer-based in grades 5-8). Louisiana high schools will not transition to PARCC in 2015.

  • If specific schools serving grades 5-8 are unable to meet technology requirements for computer-based testing by 2015, one-year waivers will be granted.
  • During the two year transition period, school and district letter grades will be distributed consistent with the 2012-13 grades, including a "hold harmless" provision for any schools and districts whose performance scores remain the same or improve.
  • While Compass and related policies will remain in effect, value-added data will not be available for educator evaluations in 2014 and 2015 due to the transition to new student assessments.
  • The current promotion policies for 4th graders will remain in place for 2014-15, but districts will be allowed to issue waivers for students ready to progress. The current 8th grade retention policy will change to allow for a transitional 9th grade year where remediation takes place on the high school campus.

The LDE will also expand educator resources to aid in the transition to Common Core standards. In addition to the current Classroom Support Toolbox curricular resources, additional resources will be added regularly in addition to a hard-copy Louisiana Curriculum Guidebook for English language arts and mathematics that will be provided to schools. While school districts continue to have full flexibility to determine their curriculum under Common Core, the guidebook provides a state-recommended sequence of skills to be taught and materials to be used.

Understanding the effect that transition and policy changes have at the local level, BESE also plans to review several additional issues in the coming months as part of its ongoing policy development process. These include the value-added model (VAM) component of the Compass teacher evaluation system, the charter school renewal and extension process, and student promotion and graduation requirements. 

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