Editor’s Note: The following is an open letter to the citizens of Louisiana from four members of BESE and some 28 members of the state legislature opposed to Common Core in Louisiana…
The past few days have seen some very encouraging developments concerning public education in Louisiana, and we are optimistic that more important work can and will be accomplished over the next few months for the best interests of the children of our state.
On Monday, Superintendent John White openly acknowledged some of the problems with Common Core in Louisiana, proposed three new recommendations for consideration of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE), and agreed that Louisiana should have its own K-12 education standards.
Two days earlier, a letter by four Common Core supporters in the Legislature was published statewide making similar recommendations and calling for BESE to “continue the Louisiana plan” for education reforms. These are positive steps, and we look forward to working together during the upcoming legislative session to make critical adjustments to ensure that a REAL Louisiana plan advances.
Superintendent White has suggested that BESE needs to review the state’s academic standards as early as this fall, and we agree. Indeed, his suggestion that BESE should convene a commission of Louisiana educators, parents and university leaders to assist in a comprehensive review is one that we have long advocated. However, we note there will be no point in engaging such a review if the stakeholders here are limited by the existing Common Core State Standards Initiative that was developed elsewhere. Since no more than 15% of the Common Core Standards can be altered or changed by participating states, it seems obvious that our mutual goal of improving Louisiana standards cannot be reached so long as we remain participants in Common Core.
With regard to student assessment, Superintendent White has suggested that our Department of Education should follow the Administrative Procedures Act and allow a transparent bid process for vendors to propose a test that is “unique to Louisiana while comparable to other states.” We certainly agree and have been advocating this for nearly a year. However, we note it will beimpossible to obtain bids for a new test if its underlying standards are not yet decided. It would thus be unwise to rush into a new testing contract without having these foundational questions answered first.
We agree with Superintendent White and our colleagues who have now acknowledged that a two year baseline of testing results is needed before any sanctions are placed on our students, teachers, schools and districts. Our teachers and districts work extremely hard to comply with every state mandate, and this delay will greatly reduce the stresses related to implementation. Superintendent White has been very vocal on this point, and we agree that no hardworking teacher, principal, or district should be punished based on decisions made outside their control.
Parents and teachers have voiced their concerns loudly across this state and nation, and we elected officials should be listening. Indeed, that is our duty. The people of our state are understandably wary of all tests, textbooks and curriculum that are aligned to national standards, because such an alignment is always accompanied by the dangers of federal intrusion and wasteful spending that brings no benefit to our kids.
Superintendent White also acknowledged this week that we are “over-testing” our students and thus, “We all need to eliminate any tests that are not meaningfully contributing to student learning.” We certainly agree, and it is our belief that the current test aligned with Common Core and PARCC is one of the problems that should be eliminated here once and for all—as other states have already done.
Again, we reiterate our optimism about these critical points on which more and more state leaders now agree. We look forward to working with all in good faith to ensure that in the very near future we are truly developing a REAL Louisiana Plan for the children of our great state. They deserve it, and the stakes are too high for us to deliver anything less.
Jane Smith, BESE, member at large
Mary Harris BESE, District 4
Dr. Lottie Beebe, BESE, District 3
Carolyn Hill, BESE, District 8
Representative James Armes, District 30
Representative Terry Brown, District 22
Representative Richard Burford, District 7
Representative Henry Burns, District 9
Representative Greg Cromer, District 90
Representative Brett Geymann, District 35
Representative Lance Harris, District 25
Representative Kenny Havard, District 62
Representative Cameron Henry, District 82
Representative Bob Hensgens, District 47
Representative Valarie Hodges, District 64
Representative Frank Hoffman, District 15
Representative Paul Hollis, District 104
Representative Frank Howard, District 24
Representative Mike Johnson, District 8
Representative Eddie Lambert, District 59
Representative Jim Morris, District 1
Representative Kevin Pearson, District 76
Representative Rogers Pope, District 71
Representative John Schroder, District 77
Representative Alan Seabaugh, District 5
Representative Lenar Whitney, District 53
Senator A.G. Crowe, District 1
Senator Bob Kostelka, District 35
Senator Elbert Guillory, District 24
Senator Fred Mills, District 22
Senator Jonathan Perry, District 26
Senator John Smith, District 30