Because of Internet conspiracy theories and irresponsible political statements by Gov. Bobby Jindal and others, there’s a lot of misinformation around concerning new academic standards in Louisiana schools.
That’s why we welcome “a very unbiased, honest review” of the new standards, in the words of a St. Tammany Parish educator who is leading a committee looking at the Common Core standards the state adopted in 2010.
Regina Sanford, an assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction in St. Tammany, chairs the 26-member review committee.
She immediately raised eyebrows by saying she would not express a personal opinion on whether the standards are good or bad. That may be an excessively neutral thing to say, but there is a responsibility for the chair of any kind of committee to deal with the issues before it without fear or favor.
What her statement shows is that Common Core as a political slogan is a hot potato. It is not unfair to say that it is particularly so in St. Tammany, one of the parishes where the new standards are politically under attack.
The parishes with intense agitation against Common Core are few, fortunately.
Louisiana desperately needed to improve its academic benchmarks. The Common Core standards were developed by a group of the states to do just that, and we think that, by and large, schools are better off for adopting them.
Politics being what it is, maybe Sanford is right to be judicious in her comments.
What is important is that the honest review be based on honest evidence. Nutty arguments that the Common Core standards are a federal conspiracy against local control of schools, or other Internet fantasies, could take time away from a more serious discussion about standards as benchmarks for progress.
What do students need to learn? That is what standards are.
This new review was mandated by the Legislature, under fire from anti-Common Core activists and the governor. But the review is actually part of what the state Department of Education and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education should responsibly do every four or five years — look at the standards and make sure they are what students need to be learning in each grade.
Leaving aside the few jurisdictions where activists react wildly to the phrase “Common Core,” the large majority of schools and systems in Louisiana use the standards today without protests and controversies. But as Sanford says, that doesn’t mean the standards themselves should be sacrosanct, and Louisiana — one of the states banding together initially to develop Common Core — has as much right as anybody to reconsider them.
It is notable that despite the agitation against Common Core and divisions on other policy questions, the BESE members, led by President Chas Roemer, of Baton Rouge, voted unanimously to endorse a judicious review of the standards led by educators, not politicians.
That is what we hope Sanford and her colleagues deliver.