St. Tammany parents air concerns about ‘Common Core’ standards

St. Tammany Parish Schools Superintendent Trey Folse
St. Tammany Parish Schools Superintendent Trey Folse

A group of angry parents marched to the podium at Thursday night’s St. Tammany Parish School Board committee meeting to voice concerns about the Common Core standards that were adopted by the state and are being fully implemented this year.

The Common Core State Standards are a set of measures being adopted by 45 states, including Louisiana, which adopted the standards for English Language Arts and Mathematics in 2010.

Public school teachers in Louisiana began to teach to the standards when the 2013-14 school year began last month.

The stated goal of Common Core is to better prepare students for college or a job.

The concerns voiced Thursday night centered on the content of what is being taught in St. Tammany classrooms, which some parents claimed are indoctrinating students with left-wing and anti-American views.

One parent, Sara Wood, who said her children attended Mandeville High, Mandeville Junior High and Tchefuncte Middle School, repeatedly asked administrators where the content for the lessons had come from.

Administrators said that the state had set the standards through adoption of the Common Core Standards, but that St. Tammany educators had written the curriculum and were still writing materials for this year.

Some individual lesson materials were developed by individual educators and curriculum writers, they said.

In reply, Wood produced an essay on the U.S. Constitution, she said had been brought home by her daughter labeled “Common Core Standards Exemplar.”

Wood asked who had decided the essay should be part of a lesson.

St. Tammany Parish Schools Assistant Superintendent Cheryl Arabie said she was not familiar with the document and would investigate.

At that point, Superintendent Trey Folse stepped in.

“We are trying to write (the curriculum) fast, and we are trying to do it right,” Folse said. “Have we made a mistake? Evidently so,” he added in reference to the essay Wood was complaining about. He promised to review it and meet with Wood to discuss the matter.

Other parents, often emotional, claimed the material had turned previously happy pupils into sullen, resentful students confused by the new curriculum and standards.

Dominique Magee said she was concerned that Common Core centralized educational control in Washington, D.C.

“It’s unacceptable,” Magee said.

“We do not want the federal government controlling what we teach.”

Magee’s comments, like many, were greeted with applause from the approximately 30 parents gathered for the meeting.

Editor’s Note: This story was on Sept. 6, 2013 to correct St. Tammany Schools Assistant Superintendent Cheryl Arabie’s last name.