BESE applauds Common Core compromise, plans February vote on revised standards
The Times-Picayune, June 16, 2015—What will Louisiana’s new math and English standards look like? On Feb. 2, 2016, we might know.
A new review panel will take its final vote that day on standards to replace Common Core, according to a timeline the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approved in committee Tuesday (June 16).
The state board decided in early spring to review the controversial math and English benchmarks. A three-bill legislative compromise made that final and shortened the timeline. Gov. Bobby Jindal has said he will sign the bills into law.
Having reached an agreement that once seemed impossible, the lion and the lamb lay down together Tuesday and snuggled.
Education Superintendent John White, an ardent Common Core supporter, thanked state Rep. John Schroder, R-Covington and a Common Core critic, for ushering the compromise through the Legislature. BESE member Jane Smith, a Jindal appointee who was the first to come out against Common Core, thanked White. BESE President Chas Roemer, White’s ally, thanked Smith.
A period for public online comment will start next month. Three content committees and an oversight committee will hammer out the first draft in October and November, in open meetings held in all corners of the state. Depending on the cost, the meetings may be live-streamed.
After the committees issue their recommendations in February, BESE will vote on the standards and send them to the Legislature. Common Core will remain in place until then and could stick around if the Legislature or new governor rejects what BESE proposes.
The board also gave preliminary approval to 101 reviewers to serve on those committees. The vast majority are teachers, or administrators such as curriculum specialists who are close to the classroom. St. Tammany Assistant Superintendent Regina Sanford chairs the oversight committee.
No one knows what the new standards will look like, but people on all sides said Tuesday they were satisfied the review would be fair and transparent.
Schroder said residents will have “the opportunity to participate, to voice their concerns — and that’s all we ever asked for.”
White said the committee members were largely moderates who did not oppose Common Core but felt elements should be fixed.
Retired teacher Lee Barrios, a Common Core critic who is running for BESE’s 1st District seat, questioned whether the committees would be working off Common Core — presumably tweaking those standards instead of starting from scratch — or with the state’s previous grade-level expectations.
But Smith praised the “stellar educators” on the committees and said she was confident it wouldn’t just keep Common Core under a different name.
White also gave an update on testing. This year, third- through eighth-graders took a new, national test developed by the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. Common Core opponents urged families to boycott it.
Contrary to pledges made in the spring, White did not have final numbers Tuesday for the number of students who opted out of Common Core tests. He said preliminary data showed between 98.5 and 99.5 percent of students did take the tests. Only a handful of schools failed to meet the federal requirement that they test at least 95 percent of their students.
While he couldn’t say for sure, White thought the schools would not face federal sanctions. However, there will be problems with their annual performance scores, which are based on test results. The Louisiana Department of Education is working with the superintendents and school board associations to craft a policy addressing these schools’ scores for this year only, he said.
“We have not said well we should just give everybody an A … on the other hand we’re not saying we should do anything to punish the schools,” White said. Opting-out “is a parental choice, not a school choice.”
Under the compromise, the state plans to enter into a one-year contract for a new test with less than 50 percent Common Core-based questions. It will hold off on longer contracts until new standards are in place, White said.
The board is expected to finalize the committee decisions Wednesday, when it will also give White his annual performance review.