The state Department of Education is shirking its duty to aid teachers and local school districts in Louisiana’s drive for more rigor in the classroom, the executive director of the Louisiana School Boards Association said Monday.
And that lack of assistance is fueling questions and concerns about the overhaul, which is called Common Core, LSBA leader Scott Richard told the Press Club of Baton Rouge.
“We need to do this in a strategic manner,” Richard said. “We just need to do this in a little smarter manner.”
Common Core is a series of standards in math and English that students will be expected to meet starting with the 2014-15 school year.
Louisiana and 44 other states have adopted the guidelines, and curriculum and other changes are being phased in at public schools statewide.
Richard said much of the angst shared by teachers and others goes back to August of 2012, when he said the state, in the name of local autonomy, dropped its transition plans for curriculum guidance and other changes to help local school districts.
“There was a great level of comfort in the transition plan,” he said. “All of a sudden it gets scrapped.”
Richard said that left teachers and principals on their own to develop curriculum that will allow students to meet national standards by next school year.
He said teachers are being asked to instruct, develop curriculum and be prepared to be evaluated in part on how students fare on the national assessments. “In Louisiana we are building the airplane as we fly,” Richard said.
Later, state Superintendent of Education John White said Richard’s criticism reflects a difference in philosophy about the state’s role.
White said the department has provided days of training for teachers and other assistance but the agency’s role “doesn’t prescribe for communities or schools the choice they make for what their kids read and learn every day.”
“We just can’t be telling them everything to do,” he said of teachers.
The criticism is the latest in a series of complaints that have sprung up around Common Core in recent weeks.
Backers say the overhaul will improve student performance and better prepare them for college and careers.
Opponents contend the changes will pave the way for a federal curriculum for public schools and failed to undergo enough public scrutiny before they won final approval.
Richard said the Common Core is limited to standards, not curriculum mandates.
But he said a wide range of questions are swirling around yearly computer assessments that Louisiana students will take, known as PARCC.
Richard said the assessments initially included about two dozen states, including Louisiana.
He said some of those states have dropped out or scaled back their participation, including Florida, Oklahoma and Ohio.
White said the group has shrunk from 23 to 19 states in four years, which he said is “pretty impressive” in light of the work and divergence of states involved.
Louisiana remains in the group.