In 2009, Louisiana education professionals joined with colleagues from more than 40 other states to create shared, high expectations in reading, writing and math, called the Common Core State Standards.
The shift to higher expectations has not been easy in the time since. The new expectations call on students to advance their skills at a faster pace. Schools have revised curricula and overhauled lesson plans.
Politics found its way into the mix. Though states created the new standards, some politicians claim they constitute federal overreach.
When parents and teachers raised legitimate issues along the way, the Legislature and BESE acted. Because of concerns about student privacy, for example, the Legislature passed the nation’s strictest privacy measures. The Legislature also required that local school boards, rather than federal or state government, make curriculum decisions.
Last week, in the spirit of reaching a reasonable agreement among officials still divided on the Common Core issue, a bipartisan group of legislators called for BESE to launch a review of the standards, strengthening them wherever appropriate.
The following day, State Superintendent of Education John White announced he would propose that BESE start such a review process this fall, ahead of schedule.
Then came a letter from additional legislators and four members of BESE, all historically opposed the new standards, saying that “the past few days have seen some very encouraging developments.”
Let’s not allow this moment of sanity to go to waste.
BESE’s regulations require that Louisiana educators review academic standards every seven years (this timeline was driven by the state’s historical textbook review process, also done once every seven years).
The last time Louisiana educators reviewed the standards in reading, writing and math, they helped to create the Common Core standards. Now, six years later, every textbook the state reviews is available in a digital version.
This advance calls for a more open, responsive standards review process. Louisiana should create an online site — perhaps operated by a nonpartisan, expert third party — that allows Louisianans to provide input on every Common Core standard. Using this commentary, groups of teachers, administrators, school board representatives, parents and professors can analyze the standards and fill in gaps that evidence suggests require adjustment.
The state should maintain the online site, and reviewers should continue to meet on an intermittent basis.
There will likely be some who oppose this sensible solution. Driven by politics or ideology, they will advocate that we completely throw out the Common Core standards and that we make teachers start five years of hard work all over again.
But for educators seeking stability, and for policymakers seeking assurance that state standards are both challenging and customized for Louisiana, a timely and modern standards review should put to rest lingering concerns.
Charles “Chas” Roemer
president, Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education