Louisiana’s top school board may have delayed the consequences of shifting to Common Core educational standards, but its action won’t stall efforts by legislators to jettison use of the standards entirely.
Members of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education overwhelmingly agreed that public-school letter grades, teacher evaluations and student promotion won’t be affected for two years by the state’s phase-in of the tougher educational standards.
The postponement of consequences tied to Common Core was described as a way to give schools, teachers and students time to adjust to the stricter grade-by-grade benchmarks adopted by most states of what students should learn in English and math.
Common Core supporters, including Superintendent of Education John White, say raising expectations for students will better prepare them for college and careers.
Many supporters of the more rigorous standards won’t get their wish that BESE’s action would lessen criticism and blunt a planned legislative effort to undo the Common Core in Louisiana.
Lawmakers who bristle at the use of national standards to judge the state’s students still intend to pursue legislation to bar Louisiana’s public schools from using the Common Core.
Meanwhile, school boards, superintendents and teacher unions that criticized the roll-out of the standards in classrooms still have concerns they intend to take to the Legislature, when the regular legislative session begins in March.
“I think it’s going to be the hottest topic by far,” said Rep. Brett Geymann, R-Lake Charles, who wants the state to shelve the Common Core. “To me, what BESE did, nothing changed. It just slowed down the rate at which it was coming. It doesn’t take care of any issues that I had.”
Complaints about the tougher standards hit both ends of the political spectrum, which could get Republican and Democratic lawmakers interested in debating Louisiana’s use of the Common Core.
Some complaints can be addressed with adjustments to the state’s rollout plan, but others only can be addressed if BESE scraps Common Core or lawmakers force the board to do that.
Tea party organizations and other groups of opponents say by using the Common Core, Louisiana is shifting to a nationalized education system that will place student education in the hands of a federal bureaucracy and remove local control.
Other critics have said Common Core teaching materials are inappropriate, and they’ve said the use of multistate standards and testing allows improper sharing of sensitive student records, raising privacy concerns.
To try to address concerns, BESE spelled out that local school districts can choose their own instructional materials and textbooks to teach to the standards and aren’t required to use any items suggested by federal or state agencies. The board adopted regulations allowing parents to review classroom materials and tightened rules governing the use of student data.
That hasn’t quieted criticism.
Also lodging complaints are school superintendents, the state school boards association and union leaders. They say while they support higher educational standards, the Common Core transition in Louisiana has happened with too little guidance, training or funding from the education department.
Louisiana’s accountability system for public schools assigns letter grades to schools and districts based on student performance on standardized tests and other measures.
Those grades determine if a school can be taken over by the state or if students are eligible for vouchers to attend private schools. Student performance on standardized tests also is used to calculate some teacher evaluations.
Earlier this month, BESE decided that the grading of students, schools and teachers won’t be raised to match the Common Core until 2015, with a slow adjustment to toughen the school grades set to phase in through 2025.
That slowed transition plan didn’t go as far as public school officials and unions wanted, and they’ll be looking to lawmakers for further changes.
BESE President Chas Roemer said he expected the board to make more policy tweaks to guide the phase-in of Common Core.
He’ll also have to struggle with lawmakers to keep the standards in place at all.
Melinda Deslatte covers the Louisiana State Capitol for The Associated Press.