K-12 Testing: Questions of Content and Funding

Apr 8, 2015

Geymann vs. White

It wasn’t a comfortable conversation, as Lake Charles Rep. Brett Geymann — a Common Core opponent — grilled Louisiana Superintendent of Education John White in the House Appropriations committee meeting Tuesday. At issue were plans to purchase new batteries of state standardized tests.

Geymann began by reviving last year’s disagreements.

“You didn’t think it was a good idea to go out and shop around,” Geymann reminded White. “And I’m still having a hard time understanding why — 12 months later — you think that is a good idea. And I was just wondering if you could walk us through what changed.”

“Well, last year we had testing contracts in place. Now our contracts are up,” White replied. “We’re going out to bid for new contracts.”

Geymann wanted to know if preference would be given to Pearson Corporation, publisher of the Common Core-aligned PARCC tests. White responded that this was a public bid process, and the best bid would win.

“What do you envision this test looking like?” Geymann challenged.

“One—it has to measure the state’s content standards in English, science, math and social studies,” White replied. “Two—it has to produce a result that is comparable with other states around the country.”

“You don’t care who gets the contract, and you don’t care what it looks like, as long as it lines up with those standards?” Geymann asked, incredulously.

“I don’t care who gets the contract, what the name of it is, what the brand name, who wins the bidding,” said an obviously irritated White. “That is not of my concern.”

The biggest problem, White told the committee, would be paying for that testing contract, since the executive budget proposal cuts Department of Education spending for that purpose by 48-percent.

“Reducing those tests brings us out of line with both state and federal law,” White warned. “It jeopardizes funding of nearly $800-million, if we are unable to meet those mandates.”

“So you’re saying we would lose 800-million?” Geymann asked doubtfully.

“That’s a decision for the feds,” White answered. “I would certainly hope we would not lose 800-million, but I’m saying we make ourselves vulnerable to that.”

White asked the committee to strongly consider funding high quality tests, which he estimated would cost about $40 per child. The budget, as proposed, would only allow for spending about $15 for each student’s test.