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Creating A Louisiana Core: Education Standards Under Review

B. Lenox/KEDM
Readying for the school year: Miers with her son Matthew and daughter Annakae.

Summer vacation is gone and family conversations have turned to talk of the new school year.

Seated in the living room of their home in Sterlington, Katie hears what her children look forward to heading back to class. 12-year-old Matthew is ready to catch up with friends. “I’m looking forward to new classes, meeting some new friends,” he says.

9-year-old Annakae is excited for a favorite subject. “I like English and Math,” she quietly tells her mom. “What do you like about English?” Katie asks. “It’s kinda easy,” says Annakae, as she shrugs off the inquiry.

As students prepare to transition to the next grade, state education leaders are moving toward new standards based on Common Core.  Common Core brings more critical thinking and problem-solving skills to the way a child learns or understands subject matter.  Miers, a former teacher, feels the method could pose problems.

“A lot of constructive response seems generic.  It’s very repetitive. Having an English background, I know once they reach college level, they’re going to be graded for originality and making the writing their own. I don’t see a lot of that at this point,” she said.

The standards apply to english and math. Miers notes that illustrations and explanations have stretched traditional math. The national standards were designed to prepare students for entry-level careers, college, or workforce training programs.

What we'll most likely hear from educators is whether a standard is maybe in the wrong grade, or maybe a standard needs to be refined. -- John White, State Superintendent of Education

Governor Bobby Jindal originally supported the idea, but later took issue with what he saw as potential federal oversight. He and Education Superintendent John White clashed over the issue. Legislators decided in this year’s session to move ahead with Common Core, but called for a review that would provide state input to customize the standards.

West Monroe Representative Frank Hoffman says what is in place now is not a federal program. “It is a state-by-state program. We just need to make sure the skills and curriculum to teach those skills are appropriate to use,” he said.

Louisiana has joined the ranks of other states that have taken a customized approach to the education standards. Hoffman says public comment, district meeting, and a review board are all part of the process.

An online portal for public comment on the state’s Department of Education website has registered over 29,000 pieces of feedback so far.

Serena White is Curriculum Supervisor for Monroe City Schools and a standards review committee member. The group addresses those submissions beginning next week. “We’ll take the comments that are submitted and look at any adjustments needed for Louisiana,” she said.

This filtering is where the committee determines what standards apply for each grade level. The plan will be customized specifically for Louisiana public schools. White anticipates most items will involve two considerations. “What we’ll most likely hear from educators is whether a standard is maybe in the wrong grade, or maybe a standard needs to be refined,” said White.

I do see a huge problem with just not trying to fix what we originally had. -- Katie Miers, parent

  It’s a scenario that Miers appreciates, but is not quite ready to applaud. “I have mixed emotions. I like they’re going to try to improve upon something that’s flawed. However, I do see a huge problem with just not trying to fix what we originally had,” she said.

The review committee holds its first meeting on August 19. Their recommendations go to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in March. Finalized standards are to go before the state lawmakers in the 2016 legislative session.

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