The new president of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents praised Common Core but said Monday that state education leaders bungled the rollout of the new academic standards.
“The implementation was not done well,” said Hollis Milton, who heads the superintendents’ group. “We have to admit that to the public.”
State Superintendent of Education John White disagreed.
In an interview, White said the state Department of Education provided ample help for local school districts, including detailed reviews of curricula submitted by publishers that dovetailed with the new benchmarks in reading, writing and math.
He said state law gives local school districts the final say on which curriculum to use, as superintendents prefer.
White also said about 6,000 more students each year have achieved college-going scores on the ACT — an exam that measures college readiness — than did so before Common Core began entering public school classrooms.
“The fact of the matter is implementation worked,” he said.
Milton, who is superintendent of the West Feliciana Parish School District, made his comments to the Press Club of Baton Rouge.
The Legislature earlier this year approved three bills aimed at curbing nearly two years of controversy over Common Core.
One of the bills requires public hearings on the standards in all six of Louisiana’s congressional districts.
The first gathering is set for Aug. 19 in Baton Rouge.
Milton’s district embraced Common Core more than many, and he said his two young children are among the first to see the changes up-close.
“The Common Core standards have been good for my children,” he said.
Milton said that, among other benefits, the new rules force students in math and other subjects to spell out how they arrived at their answers.
“In short, they are learning to defend their reasoning,” he said. “That is one reason I think Common Core is much better than the grade-level expectations we once had.”
However, Milton said local educators needed more assistance from the state Department of Education, including settling on a curriculum to prepare students for the new benchmarks.
“I know in many places the support was not there to do what they needed to do,” he said of local districts.
Milton said that, in the case of the West Feliciana Parish school system, officials of the Education Department told them to “figure it our yourself” on curriculum linked to the math standards.
Senate Education Committee Chairman Conrad Appel, R-Metairie, said Monday that the Legislature wanted local school officials to have the final say on curriculum “after a huge amount of public outcry on local control.”
Milton and other backers say the Common Core review process will result in tweaks, not any sweeping overhaul.
“The standards stand for themselves,” he said. “They have credibility.”
Follow Will Sentell on Twitter, @WillSentell. For more coverage of Louisiana government and politics, follow our Politics blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog.