Common Core controversy

1258

Officials address concerns over new schools curriculum

Bossier Schools, local legislators, and the business community are trying to ease fears over the impact of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) implementation.

The Bossier Parish School Board implemented the program in 2010 in an effort to improve educational academic standards for core subjects, including English language arts (reading and writing), math, science, social studies, foreign languages, physical education and health.

“Through the focus of incorporating more rigorous learning strategies and requiring students to demonstrate application of higher order thinking skills, the implementation of Common Core State Standards should enhance the opportunities for our young people to be more successful in facing these challenges,” said Superintendent D.C. Machen. “Our school leaders and teachers are working diligently to apply these standards to not only position students for college, careers or other future pursuits, but to better prepare them for the more rigorous assessments to be utilized as a measure of their academic performance and gauge their future advancement.”

State Representative Henry Burns, R-Haughton, said he has received several emails from concerned constituents. He said most of their concerns are confusion caused by an advertisement by Gov. Bobby Jindal that mentions education and the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” together.

“The ad is about the voucher system and talks about a lawsuit saying vouchers are unconstitutional,” Burns said.

He also noted the program is not a federal initiative.

“The Bossier Parish School Board assigns the curriculum,” he clarified. “We’re not trying to force anything down the school system’s throat, we applaud them for trying to get better.”

Machen said the only concerns voiced to him are the ones involving the timing of CCSS.

“If there is fault with CCSS, it should not fall on the enhanced instructional and learning activities that are required with CCSS, but rather with the time frame associated with the full implementation in preparation for the shift to the new assessments in the 2014-15 school year,” he said.

The new academic standards are based on research and were developed collaboratively by a coalition of teachers, school leaders and education experts from Louisiana and 45 states.

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are:

  • More Rigorous — standards are internationally-benchmarked, ensuring students are prepared to enter college and compete with their peers for high-wage jobs.
  • More Focused — standards are fewer and more focused, providing students with more time to gain a greater depth of knowledge.
  • More Relevant — standards are more relevant to what students will need to know to succeed.

The CCSS define what students need to learn in reading, writing and math in each grade to stay on track for college and careers.

Specifically:

  • English/Language Arts: New standards require students to write essays that analyze critical aspects of reading a passage, including providing evidence from the passage to support their analysis.
  • Math: New standards require students to justify conclusions, precisely communicate their conclusions and apply mathematics to problems that arise in everyday life.
  • Science and social studies: New standards require students to analyze and demonstrate both content knowledge and evidence from the text to justify their responses.

Burns notes CCSS allow each individual teacher to customize his or her approach to teaching.

“I’ve talked to several teachers and they said they like that they can zero-in on specifics and get the emphasis on understanding and less on memorization,” said Burns.

Burns notes that most businesses and industries have expressed their appreciation that Louisiana has adopted CCSS.

The Bossier Chamber of Commerce has officially issued it support of the program.

A letter outlining the support states, “We believe the Common Core State Standards will give our children what they deserve – the opportunity to compete to the best of their ability locally, nationally, and globally.”

Important to note is that Louisiana is also aligning state assessments and end-of-course tests to the new academic standards, phasing in CCSS test items each year until a complete measure of student achievement in English/Language Arts and Math is administered with the 2014-15 PARCC assessments.

“With Louisiana being in the double digits (in national ranking), that’s going to impact our higher education and our ability to draw people here. I think (Common Core) is a great initiative to get our kids back on a level playing field,” said Burns.