80 percent of online comments collected by state support leaving Common Core unchanged _lowres

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- Louisiana Association of Educators President Debbie Meaux speaks at a press conference in this August 2013 Advocate file photo.

Louisiana launched its review of Common Core on Wednesday amid chatter about opinion surveys on the academic standards and whether educators have enough time to judge the hotly debated benchmarks.

“The opportunity to make our standards work is here,” Debbie Meaux, president of the Louisiana Association of Educators, told the key committee in charge of the review.

The meetings — five more are scheduled statewide — are designed to help quell controversy over Common Core that has raged for two years.

Whether the gatherings pave the way for sweeping changes or minor adjustments is the key issue.

However, more than eight of 10 online comments to the state favor leaving the Common Core academic guidelines unchanged, officials told the 26-member Standards Committee that is overseeing the work.

Over 30,000 comments were collected by the state Department of Education from July 8-Aug. 5, and they can still be submitted.

The results show that 84 percent of the comments on the English/language arts standards back them as they are, according to officials of the Southern Regional Education Board, which spelled out what the survey said.

The other 16 percent favor changes.

That means 15,694 comments favor “keep as is” for Common Core compared with 3,039 that “suggest changes” in the reading, writing and math benchmarks.

In math, 81 percent of those who commented — 9,351 — favor the benchmarks as they are compared with 19 percent — 2,208 — who say modifications are needed.

Just over 700 people offered their online views, and 68 percent identified themselves as educators.

“A lot of this feedback is coming from people who know the profession,” said Erin Conley, a researcher for the Atlanta-based SREB.

The results also show that most of the interest in making alterations is focused on the early grades.

On the English standards, most of the comments were aimed at kindergarten students followed by grades 1, 4, 3 and 5.

Aside from Algebra I, most of the math comments were for grades 3, 4, 5 and kindergarten.

Three subcommittees are reviewing the following: grades three through 12 math; grades three through 12 English; and kindergarten to second grade.

Recommendations are due to the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education by Feb. 2, which is already prompting concerns.

“I do feel the time frame is a little short but it is what it is,” Meaux told the committee.

Keith Leger, a member of the committee, made the same point. “I feel that we are pressed for time,” Leger said.

Retired math teacher Anthony Nichols said the same. “The allotment you have been given, I think, is insufficient,” he said of the timeline.

Aside from the 26-member Standards Committee and 29-member subcommittees, turnout was modest for the midweek meeting.

Only 12 public comments were registered. Most of those came from public officials and education activists.

The audience was sparse for the initial subcommittee meetings, and much of the work is expected to be done between public meetings.

Jim Garvey, a Metairie attorney and a member of BESE, told the Standards Committee that it is not in place to “rebrand these standards or tweak these standards.”

Be bold, Garvey said, but make sure to keep the bar high.

Senate Education Committee Chairman Conrad Appel, R-Metairie, said the review is a chance to ensure rigorous classroom standards so that Louisiana can emerge from the “bottom of all those socioeconomic measures.”

“Our standards have just not been up to the level of other states,” Appel said.

BESE is to make its own recommendations on Common Core on March 2.

Those suggestions will then be reviewed by legislative committees and the next governor.

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