Maybe it was not as exciting as the rallies and contentious meetings of a couple of years ago, but a legislative hearing to put in place revised Common Core academic standards for Louisiana schools is a significant milestone.
The Common Core as a political issue overshadowed the real purpose: to look at what children are being taught, then consider improvements.
After so much controversy a few years ago, the last acts in this drama were somewhat anticlimactic.
One former skeptic, Gov. John Bel Edwards, endorsed revisions in the Common Core academic standards Tuesday, ending a 34-month controversy that divided the Legislature, state leaders and Louisiana’s top school board.
Former Gov. Bobby Jindal, an original backer of Louisiana’s participation in the Common Core movement by education leaders in many states, had fanned the flames of dissatisfaction without regard for the facts. But instead of buckling to his pressure, the Legislature and education leaders — including state Superintendent John White — put into place a procedure for revisions that concluded this week.
Edwards approved the changes after they had been backed by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. The House and Senate education committees also signed off on the changes.
An end to the pointless bickering over guidelines in reading, writing and math is a welcome dénouement of the controversy. The vast majority of those working on the revisions, affecting about a fifth of the standards themselves, were educators. Their work rightly drew praise from the governor.
“We had Louisiana experts at the table,” said Regina Sanford, chairwoman of the revisions committee and a veteran St. Tammany Parish educator.
The House education panel approved the report without objection, but in the Senate Education Committee the vote was 5-2.
We agree with backers who said the changes give teachers more flexibility, clarify some of the original academic benchmarks and better spell out what students are expected to learn in each grade — exactly the sort of process originally intended, but dragged into political drama at the state level. Common Core became a whipping boy for tea party activists who wrongly framed the standards, developed by both Republicans and Democrats, as an Obama-driven federal takeover of local schools. Jindal initially backed the standards, then flip-flopped in an obvious attempt to woo votes during his failed presidential bid.
But the larger purpose of the Common Core movement remains — to improve the critical thinking skills of today’s students, who will have to function as workers and citizens in a vastly changing world. The upgrade of academic standards is a real achievement for Louisiana schools, and we congratulate those who kept the faith despite the political headwinds of a couple of years ago.