Educators approve Common Core slowdown

By JEAN L. KAESS jkaess@daily-review.com

St. Mary Parish School Superintendent Donald Aguillard said he and the Louisiana School Superintendents’ Association support a gradual implementation of Common Core State Standards in Louisiana.
The association, he said, supports the Common Core state standards and holds a strong belief in increasing student achievement and high rigor.
“Implementation of Common Core should be gradual to allow time for teacher preparation, curriculum preparation, resource identification and reduction of gaps in student learning,” according to the statement.
John White, state education superintendent, Thursday proposed a two-year delay for the consequences from Common Core — a more rigorous set of grade-level benchmarks adopted by most states for what students should learn in reading, writing and math.
The standards have been the subject of hot debate between parents, educators and state officials.
Brooke Falgout, a parent and member of a St. Mary coalition against Common Core, said she will continue to oppose implementation.
“I’m still moving forward. I see this as progress, but I believe that mostly what he (White) did was to shut the parents up and to slow us down,” Falgout said.
She said teachers within the parish have told her group to keep moving forward because the proposed changes really don’t change much.
“I feel like we did make progress. They’re wiggling so it means they’re getting worried, but it’s not going to slow us parents down,” Falgout said.
White is suggesting the raising of accountability standards — like grading of students, schools and teachers — to match the Common Core shouldn’t start until 2015, with a slow adjustment to toughen the school grades set to phase in through 2025.
The proposal will be considered by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education next month.
Lottie Beebe, a BESE board member representing the southeastern part of the state and the St. Martin Parish superintendent of schools, said she supports a “hold harmless” period of two to three years so the board can provide guidance and curriculum for teachers.
“Although (White) has acknowledged indirectly that the reform initiatives were hastily implemented, he has not done enough for the school systems,” Beebe said, noting that as a superintendent, she speaks first-hand of the challenges teachers, principals and central office personnel face.
“There is a lot of stress in the field,” she said.
She said she also believes the accountability system itself is flawed.
“Why insist on letter grades knowing that we have not taken the time to adequately implement accountability and providing the resources for our schools?”
Beebe noted that there is a move for a Louisiana-developed curriculum for Common Core standards. She was unsure how White and the state legislature would respond.
“I will continue to be the voice for our students and our teachers. I will be the first to acknowledge that we are receptive to changing (but) we need the support and the guidance from the leadership at the state Department of Education,” Beebe said.
Of White, Beebe said “I think he’s falling short of being a responsible leader. He needs to step up and say we need to get things right.”
Among the superintendent group’s recommendations are:
—A delay in implementation of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers set for 2015 due to concerns about districts’ readiness.
—Current state assessment be used and an appropriate national assessment be determined over time.
—A cohesive plan for the development of a state curriculum framework is needed. White has announced his plan to provide these resources.
—A listing of electronic and printed instructional resources which support Common Core needs to be made available via state contract in a streamlined process.
—State plan to assist local districts with technology readiness is needed regardless of PARCC or any other assessments.
—Due to lack of above resources and due to the uncertainty of PARCC assessments, a minimum two-year period in which to establish a new baseline for teacher evaluation and school/district accountability is critical.
—During this two year period, continue to evaluate teachers utilizing the Compass rubric but with more flexibility in the use of student growth data for local evaluators. Superintendent White has announced his proposed policy encompassing this recommendation.
—During two-year baseline establishment period, the state Department of Education run school and district performance scores only without assignment of either letter grades or consequences (voucher eligibility, state takeover of schools, etc.).
—Provisions should be made for the department to work with school districts to monitor persistently low performing schools through the department’s network structure.
—Engage stakeholders to work with Louisiana Department of Education regarding accountability formula as transition occurs to Common Core. White has proposed policy tasking the Accountability Commission with this work.

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