Common Core gets suspension

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The effects of a two year delay in Common Core State Standards (CCSS) curriculum is a question mark for local schools.

Public Relations Liasion for Bossier Parish Schools said the result in the delay approved earlier this month won’t be known until January. That is when the Bossier Parish School officials will meet with state officials to discuss the delay.

The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approved state Superintendent John White’s plan to delay consequences of CCSS’s tougher mathematics and English standards after many schools, including Bossier Parish, had expressed concern over the speed at which the curriculum was being implemented.

Newly appointed BESE member, and Bossier City resident, Jane Smith praised the delay.

“That’s what I was hoping we would be able to do. Common Core just wasn’t laid out well — there was confusion, schools haven’t had a chance to implement it correctly, and this will give parents a chance to understand it,” said Smith.

jane smith
Smith

The news comes weeks after parents protested Common Core on Nov. 18 by holding signs in front of the school board’s Benton office and pulled their children out of school for the day.

Directly responding to these requests for more guidance and information, the state will produce a “curriculum guidebook” — a list of skills, lesson units and materials for teachers to draw on.

“I’m excited about the state-wide curriculum guide,” said Smith. “That takes away some of the concern about a nationalized curriculum. I am opposed to anything that resembles that. I think we can have standards but they be developed and managed by Louisiana educators.”

Implemented in 2010, CCSS aims 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.

Designed to promote more rigorous testing and relevant standards, the new academic benchmarks note what students should be able to accomplish at the end of each grade and test scores affect teacher evaluations, student promotions, and overall school performance.

The nationally devised program was adopted by the state in 2010 and implemented individually by each parish in Louisiana. The curriculum is determined by each parish’s school board.

For the next two years, schools will be graded on a curve. The distribution of grades will stay the same as they are now.

Under the Compass evaluation system that went into effect this past year, about one third of teachers are evaluated based on “value-added” statistics that measure actual student test scores against how the student, based on past scores, was expected to perform. White has eliminated the issue and the state will not issue those calculations for two years.

Another change is that school systems now will have the flexibility to promote fourth and eighth graders who do not pass the new tests. Fourth graders may still move up if there is other evidence they are prepared for fifth grade. If an eighth grader fails the new test, he or she will move on to a transitional year on a high school campus and take a combination of remedial and credit-bearing courses.

The new plan also addresses fears that schools don’t have the technology and young children don’t have the typing skills for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), which is meant to be completed on a computer. Third and fourth graders will take a paper-and-pencil version and schools can give the tests on paper in 2015 if they do not have the necessary equipment.

Smith said there are still questions about whether the PARCC is the best assessment tool to use.

“The delay will allow us to establish a baseline and get a better idea of what we need to change, if anything,” said Smith.