Not with a bang but with a whimper: The overheated agitation against Common Core, new and higher standards for public school classrooms, appears to have subsided for this year.
About 300,000 public schools students Monday begin taking what used to be called the Common Core tests — without any widespread boycotts, political rhetoric or other drama.
We welcome what Hollis Milton, the West Feliciana Parish Schools superintendent, called “an overall calmer environment this year.”
When students put pencil to paper — or fingers to computer screens — they will be working from Common Core-derived questions of their knowledge of math, reading and writing. The tests in grades three through eight are dubbed LEAP 2016, after the old LEAP testing program that previously was the state’s principal accountability exam.
The results, which are due in July, are supposed to allow comparisons with 10 other states and the District of Columbia. That was one of the principal goals of the Common Core movement, when educators from many states banded together to commission higher academic standards for their schools.
The tests this spring look slightly different this time, the result of 2015 legislation that limits questions from the original nonprofit group, dubbed PARCC, that developed the Common Core tests. Yet with almost half of the questions from that source, the “standards are the same standards,” said Rebecca Kockler, assistant superintendent of academic content for the state Department of Education.
That means that the tests’ results will be broadly comparable with those of many other states. A taxpayer in Louisiana can have some validation of how well his investment in schools is paying off.
The new standards are a work in progress: A panel of roughly 100 educators and Louisiana’s top school board earlier this year recommended changing about 20 percent of the standards. Those plans are still being reviewed and are at least a year away from showing up on assessments.
But we are delighted that the agitation against Common Core is not motivating parents to pull their children from the tests. Only a handful of inquiries have been reported around the state, compared with some 5,000 students skipping the tests last year.
That was unfair to the children and the teachers who prepared them.
We believe that new and improved academic standards ought to focus on critical thinking and the ability of students to work through problems. That Common Core objective is intended to better prepare Louisiana schoolchildren for the higher demands of today’s computer-enhanced workplaces.
During all the absurd hoopla against Common Core as some sort of U.S. government plot against states’ rights, the critics’ goal was never clear to us. The Common Core initiative was based on the need for an upgrade in the knowledge base of American students, including those in the performance-challenged Louisiana schools.
Let Common Core roll on. It’s a path toward progress, not an underhanded scheme.