Questions and answers about Common Core State Standards

The controversy over tougher academic standards in Louisiana public schools is about to reignite.

Backers and opponents of the goals, called Common Core, are expected to appear Tuesday for a hearing on the issue at the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

In addition, the Senate and House education committees may hold a briefing on the issue next month, with supporters and opponents again making their cases.

Here are some of the issues surrounding the fuss:

What is Common Core?

It is a set of math and language arts standards that students in grades K-12 are expected to know, annually, starting with the 2014-15 school year.

What is the aim?

The new expectations are supposed to make courses more rigorous and better prepare students for college and careers.

How are the standards spelled out?

Specific topics are detailed grade by grade, such as counting in kindergarten, fractions in third grade and equations in eighth grade.

What about language arts?

Generally speaking, it will include a new emphasis on analyzing literature, narrative writing, reading texts and writing pieces to show the students understand what they read, using sources to write and communicating knowledge by boiling down ideas.

Who wrote the Common Core?

It was crafted largely by a wing of the National Governor’s Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, which includes superintendents nationwide.

Achieve Inc., which calls itself a bipartisan group of governors and business leaders, partnered with the NGA to help write and review the standards.

Others included the College Board, the National Association of State Boards of Education and the National Parent Teacher Association, according to the NGA.

What is the role of the federal government in Common Core?

The Obama administration has been supportive of the standards and offered states financial incentives to take part.

Anything else?

Federal officials furnished $546 million for the development of the two assessment systems Louisiana and 44 other states will use, according to the Louisiana School Boards Association.

How was Common Core approved in Louisiana?

The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, with virtually no controversy, endorsed the standards in 2010.

Why is it controversial now?

Critics have complained about Common Core for months but got little notice until Gov. Bobby Jindal said Sept. 23 that he shared some of the concerns of critics of the standards, including creation of a “federalized curriculum.”

What else?

A group called the Stop Common Core Coalition of Louisiana, whose officials say it includes parents and educators, sponsored a rally at the State Capitol on Sept. 28 and says the standards are being imposed by the federal government.

What is Jindal’s position on Common Core?

The governor has repeatedly said that he backs additional rigor in the classroom, but that questions and concerns about the new standards need to be answered.

Does Common Core require students to turn over private information?

According to the state Department of Education, the overhaul will not require a national database to store student information.

Who backs Common Core?

Council for a Better Louisiana, Public Affairs Research Council, Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, Education’s Next Horizon, Teach for America, Stand for Children/Louisiana, Black Alliance for Educational Options/Louisiana, Baton Rouge Area Chamber, New Orleans Chamber, Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce back the standards.

Who decides how students are taught?

Local school districts are supposed to develop their own curricula, textbooks, worksheets and other materials.

How will students be tested?

Louisiana is one of 18 states and the District of Columbia in a testing consortium called the Partnership for Assessment for College and Careers.

Under the overhaul, students in grades 3-8 will be tested on the standards through the national consortium starting in spring 2015. How students in grades 9-11 will be tested is unclear.

The state plans some changes in science and social studies assessments for the 2014-15 school year. State exams that have been used for years, including LEAP and iLEAP, will be ended in 2015.