Superintendent White announced Thursday that he has been listening to many of the concerns of teachers, parents and administrators about the rapid implementation of the new Common Core standards on top of the recent value added teacher evaluation system. As a result, he is now proposing to slow down greatly the high stakes implications for students, teachers, and schools, resulting from the implementation of the Common Core. The Superintendent is now proposing to provide local educators and school systems a comprehensive state produced curriculum guide for the Common Core standards. Teachers are to be exempted from VAM ratings while new baselines are established for the ratings. Students will be allowed to be promoted to 5th and 9th grades even if they have not fully met the minimum standards contemplated by the new Common Core tests. According to White, schools will be graded on a curve to prevent school grades from changing drastically as a result of the new standards.
Some observers are already speculating that White's rather drastic proposed changes may be a preemptive move to avoid a legislative reversal of his and Jindal's major changes to the Louisiana education system. The recent legislative hearing on Common Core revealed much push back from legislators who have received major negative feedback from parents and educators. The parents have major unresolved concerns about Common Core methods, data collection, and federal interference in our schools. Teachers and many administrators feel overburdened and unfairly threatened by some of the changes they feel are not really productive.
During the recent legislative hearing on Common Core, one legislator said that he had visited almost all the schools in his district and that the most prevalent feeling from teachers was an extreme inclination to just leave the teaching profession out of frustration with the perceived flaws in the “reforms”. Another legislator said that many teachers in his district were complaining about having to work until 10 o'clock at night and on weekends to satisfy both the requirements of Common Core and the new evaluation system. Teachers were pointing their fingers at their legislators and asking: “Why did you vote for this to happen to us and our students?” Needless to say, most legislators don't want the entire teaching profession holding a grudge against them when they come up for reelection. Remember this: Teachers are the profession that has more members living in every legislative district than any other profession.
Of course, White's proposals still leave many unresolved issues. Here are some of them:
- What will be done to calm parent fears that their child's data may be shared with private companies and individuals that have no business seeing it? Some of the federal requirements of Common Core require extensive data collection, and there have been promises made to several big companies and organizations.
- What can be done to prevent Pearson and other major conglomerates that may have legal ownership of Common Core elements from profiteering and cornering the market on vital education materials?
- What if Common Core standards cause a significant number of children to suffer major grade declines or even failure in school? What assurances do parents have that their children will benefit from CCSS if they have learning disabilities or somehow do not fit the Common Core mold? Remember these standards were drawn up by academic elites who expect every child to become college ready regardless of his/her unique talents and interests. (The descriptor used for the standards is “College and Career ready”. Can all our children succeed in a one-size-fits all system? Do we remember what happened to the requirement of “No Child Left Behind” that all children be proficient in math and ELA by the year 2014. Why do we want to repeat the same mistake?
- What will be done to correct some of the Common Core standards that are obviously not age appropriate for very young students?
- Where was it demonstrated that the new techniques in Common Core for teaching elementary math are superior to our traditional methods? Did our K-12 math teachers have a say in this?
- Concerning the VAM portion of the teacher evaluation system in Louisiana, why must a certain percentage of teachers always be found to be “ineffective” no matter how our students improve from year to year? How was it predetermined that 10% of our teachers were ineffective even before the evaluation system was implemented?
- If VAM is not used for the transition years, would teachers be evaluated on SLTs that are based on Common Core standards?
- Concerning the grading system for schools, how will the new curve system correct the inequities that always doom high poverty schools to be rated lower than all others. How can it be that schools with low poverty are always rated A or B? Has anyone ever tried switching the faculties of high poverty and low poverty schools to find out where the real problem is? Why do Jindal and White assume that students attending C, D or F schools as measured by our system will do better if they transfer to a B or an A school. (Data from this past year's scores actually indicate that low performing sub groups of students do better in D and F schools than such students do in highly rated schools.)