Despite renewed bickering over Common Core, a panel of Louisiana’s top school board Tuesday approved state plans on how to review the current, controversial standards.
The aim is to have revised guidelines ready for final approval by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education by December 2016.
However, the process is sure to trigger months of fierce debate, which surfaced Tuesday amid criticism that state education leaders are preparing a review designed to largely keep Common Core intact.
“Most of us think the results are pre-determined,” said Debbie Meaux, president of the Louisiana Association of Educators, which favors sweeping changes in the reading, writing and math guidelines.
Backers of the review, which was ordered by BESE in March, said it is designed to accelerate an update of academic benchmarks that takes place periodically.
Left unspoken is the view that, if Common Core critics are allowed to lodge their complaints, math and English standards can be modified without wholesale changes.
State Superintendent of Education John White, one of the state’s top proponents of Common Core, said he wants a review that is consistent with current standards but one subject to change too, with public input at each step.
Four committees totaling 96 members are supposed to study the standards and recommend changes.
BESE is scheduled to fill those slots June 17.
However, the review is starting just as the Legislature reopens debate on whether to scrap Common Core, this time with Gov. Bobby Jindal leading the effort.
Lottie Beebe, a BESE member who lives in Breaux Bridge, said her concern is that any revised academic guidelines will be Common Core “camouflaged by another name.
“It is indisputable that Common Core is a divisive issue,” said Beebe, who is also superintendent of the St. Martin Parish school system. “We can do better.”
Under a plan initiated by the state Department of Education, scrutiny of the standards will be overseen by a 26-member committee of educators and others.
It will make recommendations to BESE.
The nitty gritty is set to be handled by three subcommittees reviewing content on kindergarten through second grade, greade three to 12 English and grade three to 12 math.
Common Core was rolled out in earnest for the 2013-14 school year.
About 320,000 students in grades three through eight were quizzed on the changes in March.
Meaux said the overhaul was a hot topic during a recent, statewide LAE meeting.
“Our elementary teachers are having great difficulty with it,” she said.
Meaux said she does not want the state review to produce “a little tweak here and a little tweak there and then rebrand them as Louisiana standards.”
Two officials of Jindal’s Division of Administration, Paul Holmes and Thomas Groves, told the BESE panel that the timeline may be a problem because of contractual concerns.
The division has repeatedly clashed with White and BESE President Chas Roemer over Common Core test contracts, which sparked a lawsuit that paved the way for the tests last month.
“I question the sincerity of your testimony,” Roemer told the pair. “And I apologize for that.”
The review plan cleared BESE’s Academic Goals and Instructional Improvement Committee.
The full panel is expected to do the same on Wednesday during a meeting at 9 a.m.
Follow Will Sentell on Twitter @WillSentell. For more coverage of Louisiana government and politics, follow our Politics blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog/.