Bid to revamp Common Core rollout faces major vote

Advocate file photo by BRYAN TUCK -- State Superintendent John White Show caption
Advocate file photo by BRYAN TUCK -- State Superintendent John White

A bid to revamp the way Common Core is rolled out faces a key vote Tuesday in a committee of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The proposal, which state Superintendent of Education John White unveiled on Nov. 21, would make changes in teacher evaluations, public school letter grades and promotion policies.

It is all linked to Common Core, which is a series of national reading, writing and math standards that take full effect for the 2014-15 school year.

The plan is set for review at 9 a.m. Tuesday in the Academic Goals and Institutional Improvement Committee of BESE.

Approval there would pave the way for the final OK by the full board at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

However, White’s proposal is expected to spark renewed arguments over Common Core, which backers say is needed to improve student performance.

Both the Louisiana School Boards Association and the Louisiana School Superintendents Association have requested key changes.

Opponents contend the standards represent federal meddling in local school issues and that Louisiana should drop out of the overhaul, which includes 44 other states.

White’s plan means that public schools would be graded on a curve during the transition to tougher academic standards to guard against major drops in school scores.

The new national assessments would only apply to students in grades 3-8, not high school students.

In addition, while fourth-graders would still be required to earn a certain score for promotion, local school districts would be able to grant promotion waivers to move to the fifth-grade if they believe the student is prepared.

That change would apply in 2014 and 2015.

Eighth-graders who cannot earn a passing score on a key test would move to high school as “transitional” ninth-graders and undergo remedial work.

But the superintendents and school boards associations are asking for:

  • A delay in plans to start giving students in grades 3-8 national tests in 2015.
  • Unspecified changes in Louisiana’s new system for evaluating public school teachers.
  • A delay of at least two years on the state issuing any letter grades to public schools as well as any state sanctions.

White has said the changes are aimed in part at giving students and teachers more time to get ready for Common Core.

BESE’s meeting also marks the first for former state Rep. Jane Smith, who Gov. Bobby Jindal named to the 11-member panel.

Smith replaced Stephen Waguespack, who left the panel when he became president of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry.