Opponents of Common Core may have taken a summer break, but they were back in force at the St. Tammany Parish School Board meeting Thursday, venting about changes to the math curriculum that they see as a surrender to pressure to adopt the controversial national standards.
Several of the 10 people who spoke out accused the school administration of being duplicitous about the curriculum. Speaker after speaker insisted that the math work their children are bringing home this fall is the same as the Common Core-aligned curriculum developed by the Washington, D.C-based nonprofit Eureka Math, which is being called Engage New York in that state. The speakers called that approach a failure for New York students.
Donna Hebert, whose child is a second-grader at Madisonville Elementary, said she chose to live in St. Tammany Parish rather than moving to North Carolina because of its good public schools. But she said a growing number of parents are putting their children in private schools or home-schooling them because of changes in math instruction that she said are creating stress for both children and parents.
“I shouldn’t have to down a bottle of wine before helping with my child’s homework,” she said.
She and others complained that instruction is not age-appropriate, with word problems that are above the reading level of younger children. Second-graders are being confronted with algebra while math for sixth-graders is being “dumbed down,” another mother said.
“Parents are being deceived and lied to,” said Cherie Cattan, who complained there are no textbooks to provide parents with guidance or examples. Parents said school officials have suggested finding examples online, but one speaker asked what families without a computer are supposed to do.
Speakers also complained about errors in math workbooks.
The St. Tammany Parish School Board voted in October to oppose the Common Core standards, saying they were imperfect, were being implemented too quickly and were not reflective of the “norms of our community in all cases.”
Superintendent Trey Folse said St. Tammany schools are caught in the middle of a battle between Gov. Bobby Jindal and state Education Superintendent John White — a struggle that’s embroiled in litigation. But the Department of Education has made it clear to the district that the state is moving forward with the new standards, Folse said.
He acknowledged there have been flaws in implementation of the new approach, adding that he is willing to meet with teachers and parents to hear their concerns. “Can we do better? Absolutely,” he said.
But one effort to give parents more input failed when an attempt to call a special meeting on the issue was shot down.
School Board member Neal Hennegan sought to open the agenda to schedule such a meeting, saying that in 20 years on the board, he had never seen anything like the outcry over Common Core.
Board President Elizabeth Heintz said the issue was already scheduled for an October meeting and pointed out that a unanimous vote was needed to open the agenda to add an item. She cast the sole vote against opening the agenda, defeating the effort.
As a result, Common Core will be discussed at the Oct. 2 meeting.
Follow Sara Pagones on Twitter, @spagonesadvocat.