Common Core is dead. Long live Common Core!
That was the reality facing both candidates for governor in the runoff, who shared an aversion to the education standards now in place in Louisiana schools. Now, Gov.-elect John Bel Edwards has a chance to influence the debate by making three new appointments to the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
But in the runoffs on Saturday, two elected BESE seats were decided, naming one new BESE member allied with critics of Superintendent John White (Kathy Edmonston, of Gonzales) and one allied with business supporters of the new standards (Tony Davis, of Natchitoches).
The majority on BESE is generally committed to updated versions of Common Core, whatever the view of Edwards’ new appointees.
They may not call our future standards Common Core, but the subject matter is going to be compatible with the current standards — also adopted in a number of other states, as well as in college-admission tests like ACT.
For political reasons, backers of the new and higher academic standards feel the moniker is “toxic,” but that’s not a judgment on the merits. Rather, it is the bitter fruit of unscrupulous criticism of the Common Core effort. It’s a thoroughly bipartisan problem, given that Gov. Bobby Jindal as well as teacher unions have been critics of the new standards.
GOP critics falsely assailed the new standards as a federal takeover of local education (they’re not) or akin to a Communist plot (that would be news to Republican education officials and the business community supporting Common Core). Edwards backs the teacher union line, so he has the virtue of a poor consistency.
What does all this politics amount to? Not much, because the movement to improve school standards continues.
Partly in response to politics, BESE advanced by one year an already-planned review of the new standards. That educator-led assessment will probably change a good bit but not rewrite the standards; after all, educators and experts just a few years ago developed them based on the need to encourage deeper levels of critical thinking in American students.
Standards are not curriculum; the standards set goals of basic learning in each grade but teachers and schools have almost unlimited authority about how to teach.
What limits the ability to scrap Common Core entirely? First of all, it’s going to be the basis for college admissions across the nation, whatever the name states might apply to their specific standards. Second of all, the states — including Louisiana — want to keep the ability to compare their students’ performance with others.
The Legislature is not likely to be in favor of scrapping the standards it has backed despite Jindal’s criticisms lately. Common Core champions such as state Sen. Conrad Appel, of Metairie, and state Rep. Steve Carter, of Baton Rouge, were among those re-elected.
Today, with Common Core in place, we’re far better positioned to be able to tell if an A-rated school in Louisiana is as good as A-rated schools elsewhere. Typically, few will be, but to demolish Common Core at this point would be to declare we don’t want a true gold standard for our schools’ performance.
As with the mythical Lake Wobegon, Louisiana’s standards for achievement cannot be an official declaration that all our children are above average.
Common Core is dead. Long live Common Core.