Louisiana public school students in kindergarten and first grade will be the first to tackle a new curriculum as part of a drive to set up national academic standards, officials said Friday.
Students from kindergarten through 12th grade will face revamped classes starting in 2014, said Nancy Beben, director of curriculum standards at the state Department of Education.
The issue was one of the workshop topics during the fifth annual Cecil J. Picard Symposium on Academic Excellence, which is designed to recognize outstanding educators.
The gathering included meetings on new evaluations of teachers, special education and other topics, and a dinner where April Giddens, of Natchitoches Magnet School, was named 2012 teacher of the year.
Rapides Parish Superintendent Gary Jones was named superintendent of the year.
The new curriculum, called “common core standards,” is aimed at making classes more focused and revamping a public school lineup that critics say tries to cover too much material.
The changes were developed by the National Governors Association and the umbrella group for state superintendents of education, with input from a wide range of school groups.
As a practical matter, state officials have said, it will mean students will sometimes grapple with math and other issues a year earlier than they do now.
The standards have been adopted by Louisiana and 43 other states, one territory and the District of Columbia.
Officials said the new rigor is especially needed in Louisiana, where the college graduation rate is among the lowest in the nation.
The initial changes will include math and English, Beben said.
Social studies and science will be part of the new curriculum by 2014, she said.
No changes are planned for the school year that begins next month.
The first changes will apply to students in kindergarten and first grade in the 2012-13 school year, Beben said.
In the same year, students in grades second through eighth and high school will start seeing changes, with material no longer relevant to the new standards being removed and new issues added that dovetail with the switch.
The new curriculum will apply to students from pre-kindergarten through second grade in 2013-14, and to all students the following school year.
In addition, students in grades third through 12 will start facing assessments on the new standards in 2014-15.
Beben said that will include an end-of-year test after 90 percent of the material is covered.
Despite questions about financing, Beben said teachers will undergo nine days of training to get familiar with the new curriculum.
“All I can say is that is what we are planning to do,” she said.