St. Tammany parents again raise questions about Common Core

St. Tammany Parish School Board member Peggy Seeley said she called the meeting to give parents throughout the parish an opportunity to raise questions and concerns about the standards that are going into effect for all grades this school year.

Statewide, Common Core is proving divisive, with supporters saying the standards are simply a set of guidelines for what students should know, measured by a new set of annual exams to replace the old LEAP tests. Some opponents see the academic standards as amounting to a national curriculum, and that view was clearly dominant Monday night.

Seeley, School Board member Mary K. Bellisario and Lee Barrios, a retired middle school teacher and outspoken critic of Louisiana education reform, led the discussion, with Seeley saying she’s heard from parents who say their children in second, third and fourth grades want to quit school and are hiding their homework.

“When you have to hog-tie them to go to school, there’s a problem here,’’ Seeley said.

Barrios, a former candidate for state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, took on school reform more broadly, blasting everything from charter schools and state Education Superintendent John White to high-stakes testing, which she said is intentionally producing failure to justify the state’s taking over schools.

Barrios urged parents to attend BESE meetings and to speak out there or at least to contact BESE members to make their concerns about Common Core known.

“John White is saying parents love it, people love it,’’ Barrios said. “How many are there to speak against it? Very few.’’

She also asked audience members to contact their congressional representatives and state legislators, adding the Republican National Committee has come out against Common Core. “Now is a good time to push back with the Republicans,’’ she said.

Bellisario said lawmakers will say they didn’t vote for Common Core, which she said is true.

There are things that legislators can do, she said, and the public needs to suggest them.

The three mentioned a resolution against Common Core by state Sen. A.G. Crowe, R-Slidell, that failed in the last session.

The audience members listened intently but were not nearly as vociferous as the parents who attended a School Board meeting this month at which Common Core was discussed. Those parents, some of them in tears, expressed fears that students are being indoctrinated with left-wing and anti-American views.

Others warned the Common Core standards could centralize educational control in Washington, D.C. They also said their children were confused by the new curriculum and standards and were developing negative attitudes toward school.

The audience Monday was far more composed, although members also expressed concerns about the effect of the new standards on their children. Demands that young children show how they arrived at math answers have some parents frustrated, with one mother saying that her son can get an answer right but is struggling with how he is supposed to demonstrate it with bars and graphs.

Another mother said her son already had anxiety issues about passing the LEAP test.

“He cried all night the night before the test,’’ she said, adding that the pressure is coming from school, not home.

Bellisario asked parents to send examples of problems — particularly math problems — that are causing their children to have difficulties.

Barrios also urged parents to let their School Board members and Superintendent Trey Folse know about the problems they are having.

Barrios and Bellisario weren’t alone in urging activism. Audience member Ralph Roshto stood up to exhort parents to speak out. He has created a website called KillCommonCore.com, even though he doesn’t have children in the system. “I’m here for your children. I’m fighting for our country because that’s what the future is, your children,’’ he said.

He cited a School Board meeting at which Assistant Superintendent Cheryl Arabie called Common Core a living document, which Roshto said means it could change in five years or even next year.

“They are pushing their agenda on us, so push back,’’ he said.