Plan to help teachers with new rules delayed
The East Baton Rouge Parish School Board was sharply divided Thursday on what professional development organizations to hire to help Baton Rouge public school teachers deal with new educational standards known as Common Core, which were launched in the classroom two months ago.
After deadlocking on whether to move forward or to delay, the board finally voted 8-1 to put off a final vote until the board meets again Nov. 7.
The board may, if it can get a quorum, hold a special meeting before that time but only to gather information, not to vote on the issue.
Board member Evelyn Ware-Jackson cast the sole vote against delaying action.
“What can we do to speed this process up?” she asked, receiving no response.
Superintendent Bernard Taylor was unhappy with the delay, which he said means that training he hoped to have underway in November won’t start until January.
“At the end of the day, it was as timely as the process would have allowed,” he said.
Some board members disagreed.
“You’re not giving us enough time,” board member Vereta Lee complained.
Board member Randy Lamana said the board needs more time to read what’s been presented and should not be put in a position to have to act hastily.
Taylor pressed the board to move more quickly. He urged spending no more than $1.2 million for the first year of implementation and perhaps less, depending on negotiations.
Future year costs would be decided later.
He said he needs a decision before the end of October, but said he would prefer an immediate decision.
“We’re at a mission critical point here,” Taylor said. “I’m trying to get training started before we break for Thanksgiving.”
Board member Craig Freeman made a personal appeal to approve the training now.
He said he’s helping one child with fifth grade math that’s radically different than the math he helped a younger child with two years ago.
“We have left teachers treading water in an ocean, and we are saying we’ll get back to them in three weeks,” he said.
Common Core, which has been adopted by 45 states, went into effect in August throughout Louisiana public schools.
Board member Barbara Freiberg, who has trained many teachers herself through the years, said she, like Freeman, is ready to move ahead. But she reserved the right to make small changes later.
“I think we will end up agreeing to what’s before us tonight,” Freiberg said. “I know I’ve gotten a lot of my questions answered.”
The three groups recommended for hiring are Center for Development & Learning, of Metairie; the Institute for Learning, at the University of Pittsburgh; and the Leadership and Learning Center, a division of textbook giant Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, of Denver.
Hiring all three groups, rather than just one, was the surprise recommendation of an 11-member in-house committee after they heard presentations of each of the three groups Tuesday.
Board members were not informed of the recommendation until Thursday night’s board meeting.
The three were selected from 11 groups that submitted proposals to provide training, coaching, tests and lessons in English, math, science and social studies for the school system’s 3,000-plus teachers.
“As we began to look at it, we thought it would be difficult for one organization to provide all of those services,” said Gypsye Bryan, a director of instructor and the head of the review committee.
Instead, the committee focused on the strengths of each group.
“We thought we really need to look at what each organization brought to the table,” Bryan said.
Taylor said he was skeptical at first, thinking the committee was going to go with just one vendor, but was persuaded to go this route instead.
The Center for Development & Learning, of Metairie, which got a warm reception from the review committee Tuesday, would get the biggest chunk of training responsibility, and would design lessons specifically for prekindergarten and social students.
The Institute for Learning would design lessons and model units in English, math and science, assist in creating tests for those subjects, and evaluate the school system’s in-house social studies
The Leadership and Learning Center would develop online assessments at select schools and provide training in its use.
Taylor originally sought to hire just one group.
I n July, facing resistance from several School Board members, Taylor set aside a proposed four-year, $2.7 million contract with the Institute for Learning.
Taylor, a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, has hired the university’s Institute for Leadership several times in the past to train teachers in other areas, but several board members balked at the expense and asked to explore other options.