It is a frightening measure of courage, or rather lack of it, in Louisiana politics: Three of four leading candidates for governor quail before political pressure over Common Core school standards.
The three are wrong.
“We need to get out of the Common Core umbrella and the PARCC test,” said U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La. No, we don’t.
“We can have high standards without Common Core,” said Democratic state Rep. John Bel Edwards, of Amite. Not easily, you can’t; other states have wasted millions of dollars trying.
Republican Scott Angelle, a member of the Public Service Commission, finally put himself on record by chiming in that Common Core does not have a monopoly on high academic achievement.
The last is the sort of weaseling political statement that may be the worst approach to this problem, which requires politicians to be leaders and not followers.
All three gentlemen, if elected, likely would approach a major policy challenge in education by hiring a lot of experts, consulting with teachers and school administrators, finding the best operators for facilities or, just for example, drafting test questions that are consistent with the academic standards in schools.
Despite the weasel words, that is exactly what Common Core is. It is a new and improved set of academic standards that has had input from teachers and other education professionals from the get-go; far from a U.S. government mandate, it was developed by the states.
More far-sighted leaders — if the word can in this instance be applied to Angelle, Edwards and Vitter — saw that the children of America, and especially Louisiana, are falling behind. Critical thinking skills need to be stressed more. A computer-literate, or at least cellphone-addicted, generation isn’t going to learn the chalkboard way that older generations did.
Not least, Louisiana tested the test, administering more than 40,000 tests last school year in a run-through that produced few reports of problems. The state Department of Education is not being inflexible on this, as the candidates imply; rather, implementation of a major policy change is adaptable. For one thing, school systems — those led by the Louisiana School Boards Association before which the candidates spoke this week — sometimes failed in their efforts to get enough computers for testing, so paper tests are allowed for now.
The opposition to Common Core differs in opinion and political outlook, but it is apparently enough to sway those, including Vitter and Gov. Bobby Jindal, who initially backed higher standards. People on the left, and these include many union-backed elected members of school boards, have trouble with “overtesting,” as if life isn’t a long series of tests. People on the right are nourished by fantasies like Vitter’s, that the Common Core developed by the states is foisted on us by a federal conspiracy.
We agree with Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, who demonstrated at the school boards forum that he is not blown off course by the first political breeze that comes along.
“Now is not the time for Louisiana to retreat,” Dardenne said.
We agree with Dardenne.