Gov. Bobby Jindal has recently backtracked on his earlier support for Louisiana’s participation in the Common Core State Standard program that aims to improve critical thinking skills for students while toughening up standardized tests.
Last year, Louisiana joined with nearly every other state in the country to adopt the standards that were developed by the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers and are anticipated to increase the educational requirements of school children throughout the country.
Although Jindal endorsed the new standards at that time, in recent weeks he as backed down from his previous advocacy and instead has joined ranks with parents and legislators who see Common Core as an intrusion into local classrooms by the federal government. He is now seeking to block its implementation throughout the state.
In a statement released last week, Jindal said the original Common Core legislation he supported, which resulted in a bill he signed into law, was rushed through the legislature without adequate public comment.
In addition, Jindal said the Common Core landscape changed after that bill was signed into law.
“Proponents weren’t up front about federal involvement in PARCC and Common Core. Now that we understand the federal overreach involved, we need to slow down and make the right decision. Some Common Core proponents suggest that we cannot have high standards without Common Core. That is a false statement,” he said. “We need a Louisiana test that ensures children are performing at high levels so they can compete not only around the country, but around the world. We can certainly have high standards without giving up control of Louisiana’s education system to the federal government.”
Jindal is expected to try to repeal the Common Core standards in the 2015 legislative session.
Meanwhile, St. Charles Parish Public Schools Superintendent Felecia Gomez-Walker released a statement that said the school district will continue to teach local students at a higher standard no matter what tests they are required to take.
“Until the issue is resolved, we want to assure our community that St. Charles Parish Public Schools remains committed to teaching a well-sequenced curriculum that includes reading diverse texts, writing for different purposes, critical thinking, logic and reasoning. These are the same skills taught in 2013-14 and will remain as a focus for 2014-15. Teaching of these skills has resulted in student achievement that is among the highest in the state,” she said.
Jindal’s about face on Common Core has put him in direct conflict with State Superintendent of Education John White as well as Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) board members.
In St. Charles Parish, Common Core standards were integrated into the 2014 LEAP and iLEAP tests and a pilot group of students took the Partnership For Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test that was developed around Common Core standards. PARCC will allow Louisiana to compare itself to 17 other states who are already, or will be, taking the PARCC tests in coming years.
With Common Core standards in place, St. Charles Parish Public Schools increased their LEAP and iLEAP test scores and improved to fourth best in the state.
Rachel Allemand, assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction and assessment, views Common Core as an upgrade in student learning.
“Common Core really emphasizes not just getting the correct answer, but understanding the mathematics behind how you get the correct answer, so a lot of Common Core is about developing that conceptual thinking,” she said.
Allemand said despite teachers and administrators having to meet over the 2013 summer break to develop Common Core coursework for the upcoming year, the transition went smoothly.
“I think all of that paid off, it just took a huge effort on behalf of teachers and administrators,” she said. “With parents we created a live binder for math to help them to understand how Common Core was different from the old math. I think it was just the way all of that pulled together that paid off the way that it did.”
Although Common Core has been a source of contention for some parents, Gomez-Walker said the St. Charles Parish community has been pretty quiet on the subject.
“Very seldom do you hear anybody, even a parent, identify something in Common Core that they object to. What they objected to was people thought there was federal involvement in the standards,” she said.