Louisiana’s top school board, the site of months of arguments over Common Core, is the next stop for recommended changes in the always contentious reading, writing and math standards.
Last week, after five months of work, a 26-member panel overwhelmingly approved changes in the benchmarks that have sparked sporadic controversy for 29 months.
About one in five of the nearly 1,300 standards need to be revised, the committee said, including moving some to different grades.
The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has to review the suggestions, add any of its own and approve a package by March 4.
BESE next meets March 3-4.
BESE President Jim Garvey praised the work of the review panel and said any changes could be in place for the 2016-17 school year.
“I am getting good feedback,” said Garvey, a Metairie lawyer.
The changes were approved Feb. 2 by 21 of 26 members of the Standards Review Committee.
However, the key question for months has been whether the review would produce major modifications or slight adjustments.
Even after BESE acts, the revisions will face a period of public comment, scrutiny by the House and Senate education committees and Gov. John Bel Edwards.
Edwards, a Common Core critic, said earlier that, if major changes are not made, “it is unlikely people will perceive that the review was transparent, and this will further prevent acceptance by the general public.”
Three members missed the meeting where the revisions won approval.
Two who have concerns abstained — Scott Richard, executive director of the Louisiana School Boards Association, and Hollis Milton, president of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents.
Both are Edwards’ allies.
Richard said he was bothered that three members quit the panel.
He also questioned whether teachers and others will have time to implement the revised benchmarks, and that doing so for the 2017-18 school year might make more sense.
“It seems like the law was very intentional to allow for the proper vetting that needs to occur,” Richard said.
The Standards Review Committee studied all 1,287 math and English standards.
It suggested modifications for 21 percent, or 270.
Regina Sanford, a St. Tammany educator and chairwoman of the panel, said members devoted countless hours to scrutinizing the benchmarks.
“Given the fact that we reviewed each and every standard not once, not twice, but many times over, it was a very rich, deep conversation,” Sanford said.
Barry Erwin, president of the pro-Common Core Council for a Better Louisiana, praised the work.
“From our perspective, it looks like we have very strong, rigorous standards,” Erwin said.
“The fact that a number of them changed is one thing,” he said. “But the fact that a lot of the changes seem to be things that make sense while not reducing the rigor is significant.”
Garvey said the very people who did the review were recommended by those hearing the most complaints about Common Core — local school boards.
“So I would expect this to get approved by the Legislature, maybe with some minor additional tweaks,” he said.
Milton, who is superintendent of the West Feliciana Parish school system, praised Sanford and the work of teachers and others who did the review.
“However, we cannot approve standards in isolation,” Milton said in an emailed response to questions.
“We need to be assured that the Department of Education provides the proper resources in a timely manner so the transition is successful,” he said.
“There is still a lack of confidence in the department from how the Common Core standards were implemented,” Milton said.
Department officials said they plan to offer local districts a Standards Support Plan later this month, including adjustments districts and schools should make, even knowing the review will continue.
Follow Will Sentell on Twitter, @WillSentell. For more coverage of Louisiana government and politics, follow our Politics blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog/.