Perhaps it was bound to happen when the Legislature mandated a widespread review of the Common Core academic standards now in place in Louisiana public schools.
Now, just days before a statewide election, there is flak about the process from a political critic of Common Core, and sour grapes from at least one educator — among more than 100 involved — that her proposals have not been adopted by her peers.
Inevitable? Probably, when the adoption of academic standards has become politicized.
When the Legislature mandated a thorough review of the new academic standards, that was in some ways a concession to Common Core critics. But the reality is that an extensive review of the standards was due in 2017 anyway, so the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education was simply advancing the process by a year.
So what exactly are they reviewing? Academic standards developed over several years of work by education leaders and experts from a group of U.S. states. Louisiana adopted the new standards in 2010. The political hype over Common Core does not do justice to the actual standards themselves; because they were developed through an extensive process before 2010, the reality is that rewriting them completely in a year would be impossible anyway.
We don’t think rewriting is called for, but constructive revision would be welcomed. What that does not satisfy is the political call for Common Core to be jettisoned.
Rewrite the book? Wasn’t going to happen.
And so any good-faith review was never likely to satisfy the motley crew of Common Core opponents, either those on the political right who fear a federal “takeover” of local education, or those on the left who oppose high-stakes testing and a new emphasis on accountability in public education.
At least one member of the review committee, a retired educator from Slidell, resigned after suggested changes were not adopted by the review committee. Given that there are so many educators, active and retired, still working on the review, the loss of one member is to be regretted but does not represent any groundswell of professional opinion.
Nor does the opposition of state Rep. Brett Geymann, R-Lake Charles, who backed the review proposal in this spring’s session of the Legislature. It had become clear that the lawmakers would not adopt Geymann’s views, so the compromise to advance a thorough review was the best deal he could get.
What the compromise does not achieve, because it was never a practical idea to begin with, was a complete rewrite of the state’s academic benchmarks in reading, writing and math.
It is not that review committee members are not working hard at it, nor should anyone prejudge their work. We want to see what the committees report in the new year, as required by the Legislature and BESE.
There will be some changes, but the basics of higher academic standards will be preserved. They should be, because there is a consensus among educators about what the standards should be in general, and there is an agreement among policymakers — the majority of BESE members, for one example — that Louisiana must not languish in the bottom of the education rankings for another generation.
Raising the academic bar is going to be a multiyear process. The current review appears to be a step forward, not back.
And that’s not going to mollify those who want to go back.