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Keep Common Core

My granddaughter is a fourth grader at an international school in the Netherlands, where her math curriculum includes fundamentals of algebra. She and her younger brother, a first-grader, are also required to take a language course – in this case: German. Both, who most recently attended elementary school in Oklahoma, are performing quite well in their new educational environs.

Moreover, neither of their parents has objected to this rigorous curriculum as more than “age-appropriate,” an oft-heard concern for the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education’s (BESE) Louisiana’s Common Core State Standards (CCSS) approach to increasing educational standards.

The current Louisiana legislative session will likely be a determinant of whether this state is ready for a 21st Century education system – leading to the advanced employment opportunities of such a century – or if we will drop back a light year or so on the standards front.

This might be an appropriate time to point out Louisiana’s educational ranking, after more than a full generation of students have moved from Pre-Kindergarten through twelfth grade since the 1999 launch of the “accountability program” of LEAP and GEE tests, appears to remain a steady 49 out of 50 states. For the past three years, Louisiana has maintained an “F” grade on Education Week’s state-by-state report.

Clearly, we must do something to change this circumstance, but bet is that state lawmakers will cave to the objections of an uninformed public’s criticisms of the Common Core State Standards – and the evaluation system that accompanies it, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC).

Part of the problem for state lawmakers is the misinformation circulating among parents, educators – and even some legislators about CCSS. Many appear to believe this approach to improving our national education standards is a federal power grab to institute national K-12 curriculum. And there’s also that assertion by some parents and educators that the standards are too rigorous for young learners. Another concern involves security of students’ personal information in reporting student achievement.

CCSS evolved from the work of a bipartisan group of state governors at the 1996 National Education Summit. Their initial work led to forming an organization whose priority was to support standard-based education reforms in the states, and partnering with other national organizations to “identify the ‘must have’ knowledge and skills demanded by higher education and employers.”

In 2009, the organization partnered with the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers to work on CCSS. Released in 2012, the final CCSS standards enumerate a set of K-12 math and language arts requirements that students are expected to know, each year, beginning with the 2014-15 school year. The standards are expected to improve the rigor of coursework and better prepare students for college and career paths.

CCSS simply sets the standards – the benchmarks; the state or local school districts design the curriculum to achieve the standards.

So, while it appears that state lawmakers will address the personal information security issue – legislators would better serve Louisiana’s students by promoting implementation of CCSS and PARCC, rather than tinkering with any other part of it.

Louisiana students need every advantage to advance to a higher standard of living through a higher standard of education. CCSS is supported by our state business and industry leaders as a major avenue to competing in a global economy and ensuring Louisiana’s citizens have a strong role in that economy.

We’ve tried education the “Louisiana way;” given our national standings however, it’s clearly time to join the 44 states that have chosen to adopt CCSS and move toward improving our education system.


Marty Carlson is a columnist for the Bossier Press-Tribune. She may be reached via email at m_carlso@bellsouth.net

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