Common Core debate rages on

local residents gathered at Bossier Parish Community College to voice their own opinions and concerns to a panel of educators and state delegates last week.

If events from last week are any indication, northwest Louisiana and the state as a whole, still have reservations regarding the Common Core curriculum for its schools.

On the same day that Governor Bobby Jindal announced he would join legislators in their lawsuit to fight Common Core, local residents gathered at Bossier Parish Community College to voice their own opinions and concerns to a panel of educators and state delegates.

The public forum, which lasted just over two hours, drew a large crowd of people from multiple parishes. Most of those who spoke were emotional with their pleas for change.

One mother spoke about the toll Common Core is taking on her children, who are now being treated for depression and have expressed interest in no longer attending school.

“We are the parents and we’ve got to stand up for them,” she said, followed by loud applause from the crowd.

Jane H. Smith, Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) Member at Large, replied that Common Core is affecting students at all levels, including those in honors courses.

“If a child is frustrated and can’t move on, that’s detrimental to young children,” Smith said. “We’ve got the greatest teachers doing their best to implement what they have to according to the law. That’s why we have to change the law.”

No one stepped up to speak publicly in favor of Common Core.

The consensus of the panel was Common Core isn’t about higher standards.

“It’s an initiative driven by a test,” State Rep. John Schroder (District 77) said. “They are shoving down our throats an untested, unproven curriculum that we don’t even know if it’s going to work. We need to get unified in this effort and regain control of our children’s education. Let’s work together and get out of this.”

Rachel Gifford, President of the Bossier Association of Educators (BAE), said teachers and students are “being asked to run a race for which they haven’t been given proper equipment or training and the course keeps changing.”

“If better teaching and learning is our goal, then policymakers need to implement common sense along with Common Core,” Gifford said. “Core is a set of standards, not a curriculum. The implementation of any curriculum should include stakeholder input, financial resources, professional development, and adequate transition time. The pressure to perform has replaced the joy of teaching and learning in classrooms and the true meaning of assessments, to inform and guide instruction, has been lost.”    

Panelists encouraged the audience to start at the local level by contacting school board members, school superintendents and their legislative representatives. Their final message to the public was simple – get engaged and stay engaged in the effort to end Common Core.

“This battle starts with you,” Schroder said. “Throw out those [elected officials] who are for Common Core and vote in those who are against it. The only way it will change is to stand up and make it change. It has nothing to do with standards or higher standards. It’s about who has control of our state’s education.”

Jindal joined the lawsuit with a vow to fight Common Core. He said that the Louisiana Department of Education and the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) should have followed the law and proper administrative procedures.

“The lawsuit alleges that BESE and Superintendent John White did not comply with the Louisiana Administrative Procedures Act when it began implementing Common Core,” a statement from the Governor’s office states. “Under the law, the standards should have been advertised to the public to give parents and community members an opportunity to see the standards and comment on them as state standards were promulgated in previous years. However, the APA was ignored and the standards were not advertised.”

Jindal continued: “There is growing dissatisfaction with Common Core and we will continue to support every effort to halt the federalization of curriculum in Louisiana schools. Education is best left to local control – which is why we will continue fighting to get Common Core out of Louisiana.”