Back in high school I got an A for being able to identify that the same guy who bought Louisiana for the United States also was the prime writer of the Declaration of Independence.
My parents were proud.
Fast-forward 30 years, and my daughter had to write a paper detailing how Thomas Jefferson defied his party’s position and forged a coalition with opponents in order to buy Louisiana. She got a C.
Her parents were disappointed.
Establishing more rigorous classroom standards, an issue long simmering among some groups, has boiled over into widespread controversy during the past few weeks with “town hall” meetings being held all over the state.
The St. Tammany Parish School Board Thursday night approved a resolution calling for discontinuing the Common Core State Standards Initiative. On Tuesday, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, which approved the new standards in 2010, will meet to discuss the issue.
The Louisiana Legislature also is organizing hearings.
Common Core is a series of math and English standards that already have been integrated into the teaching of Louisiana public schools, but will take full effect during the next school year.
The idea, basically, is to establish a baseline for what high schoolers need to know and accomplish upon graduation. It allows students from various schools to be compared equally and protects against local districts’ dumbing down in order to score well on national tests.
It’s those national tests that form the basis for Louisiana’s poor showings in the various student achievement rankings to which Gov. Bobby Jindal and other politicians point.
All but five states have signed on to the concept of teaching their children to the same minimum standard.
Though widely supported by the influential big business community, such as ExxonMobil, the world’s largest oil and gas company, and Microsoft mogul Bill Gates, many self-proclaimed conservatives are just as adamantly against Common Core. The National Federation of Republican Women adopted a resolution on Oct. 2, 2011 condemning the initiative as “the centerpiece of the Obama Administration’s agenda to centralize education decisions at the federal level.”
Carefully treading the divide between his usual camp followers, Jindal announced he opposed federal officials imposing curricula on local schools.
Republican state Rep. Cameron Henry, of Metairie, was not mollified.
“His department of education is currently working to make sure that absolutely nothing changes,” Henry said last week.
“These are people who the governor appointed, that work at his pleasure, working every day doing the exact opposite of what he has told the people of Louisiana.”
Henry is looking to draft bills that would give the Legislature more oversight — on behalf of parents — over curricula decisions made by BESE.
He’s also pushing for several hearings at the state Legislature over the next month.
On May 22, the state Senate Education Committee already took nearly two hours of testimony from both sides while considering Senate Concurrent Resolution 68, which sought state withdrawal from the Common Core State Standards Initiative.
Members of tea party organizations and others testified in angry voices, occasionally apologizing to senators for being so passionate.
Bob Reid, of the Baton Rouge-based TEA Party of Louisiana LLC, said Obama wanted to do to education what he did to health care. Another witness opined that Jefferson would be shocked at Common Core, if he were alive today.
It’s not just tea party members, but a lot of parents who question the oversight of Common Core; how the standards are set; who says these particular standards are the right ones; and how testing is done, said state Sen. A.G. Crowe, the Pearl River Republican who sponsored SCR68, which ultimately failed. “Just because the tea party happens to agree doesn’t mean that it’s a tea party initiative; although they certainly are concerned about the Common Core,” he said last week.
Crowe, who says he supports stricter standards, is concerned that the federal government “hijacked” what should be a local determination.
“I really think, basically, it’s a good idea, but it got messed up when the federal government started getting involved with it and states’ rights were trampled on,” Crowe said.
Mark Ballard is editor of The Advocate’s Capitol news bureau. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.