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Will Common Core go away?

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As discussion continues in the state legislature about Common Core State Standards, the clock is ticking on the 2014 session. And there remains much concern over its future.

Common Core State Standards is a nationwide effort to improve academic standards. Its assessment tool, the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers), would provide a comparison of student performance across all states.

Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE ) member and Bossier City resident Jane Smith, has taken a strong stance against Common Core and PARCC. She said there has not been a buy in from all the parties who have to implement Common Core — i.e. teachers, principals and parents.

“We should do this correctly in that we choose and develop a test, have curriculum guides ready for parents, and give teachers the proper training to help students,” said Smith. “When you have the buy in, you have success.”

Locally, the response she has received from teachers and principals is that they support more rigorous standards to compare development, but the implementation has been extremely poor.

She said parents are concerned that it’s taking away the flexibility of teacher, allowing “data mining” of students information, and giving students the ability to be exposed to curriculum that is inappropriate — such as reading an article that is violent or sexual in nature and writing a report about it.

The Louisiana Department of Education chose to join the PARCC consortium, but the state currently does not have a contract, only a memorandum of understanding.

“The thinking is, ‘Why don’t we have a contract, just a memorandum of understanding, with something this large? Is it to bypass contractual review?'” said Smith.

She said it would be “easy” for Gov. Bobby Jindal to pull the state out of Common Core and the PARCC. She believes he can do that with an executive order, similar to how Florida did.

“We can go out for other bids for similar tests. I agree with Rep. (Henry) Burns that we can take a look at LEAP and iLEAP to develop our own set of Louisiana standards with much oversight of what is in the curriculum, if the students are ready, and if there are enough technological resources available,” said Smith.

The legislation Smith is referring to is Burns’ HB163. This bill would modify or eliminates PARCC as the state testing tool.

“I promised our local educators that I would represent their thoughts on PARCC that they didn’t have assets or will need more time for training,” Burns previously told the Press-Tribune.

Earlier in the session, the House dealt with legislation that would prohibit student “data mining.”

“There was a real concern about sharing student data, we’ve made good strides to prevent data mining from anyone that doesn’t need it,” State Rep. Jeff Thompson, R-Bossier City, previously told the Press-Tribune.

Thompson is in favor of finding a way to improve student performance and defining accountability during this year’s session, even if that is not Common Core.

“By whatever name, we need local control on what we teach but some rational comparison to learning. We must also provide the necessary support and instruction to teachers and give then adequate time and ample support to implement this strategy.

We are making progress in doing that, but have not yet found the right balance for reforms in education to be meaningful or long lasting. Hopefully the remainder of this session we will continue to see some progress in those regards.”

Bills to eliminate Common Core and PARCC have all been deferred so far this session, barring Burns’ bill. The education committee was due to meet Thursday but didn’t, so Burns’ bill wasn’t heard. He expects HB380, which would defund PARCC, to be heard in the House soon.

From her position on BESE , Smith is asking Gov. Jindal to sign Louisiana out of Common Core and and let Louisiana begin the process to develop its own testing and curriculum.

State Senator Barrow Peacock, R-Bossier City, believes that responsibility should fall on the BESE board.

“We as a legislature didn’t make the decision to go into Common Core and I think the Department of Education needs to make the decision to get out of it, if they so choose,” said Peacock.

If this decision to pull out were to happen, that would mean a year’s moratorium on testing in order to prepare for whatever test would come be decided upon.

“We’ve got to develop a baseline for a year and develop the standards, as we look at RFPs (requests for proposals) for tests, train teachers, and educate parents,” said Smith. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with taking a year to get it right.”