Apr 2, 2014 1:14 PM by AP

Common Core up for debate in education committee

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Lawmakers on the House Education Committee on Wednesday were considering whether Louisiana should scrap its participation in the Common Core education standards and the testing associated with it.

The debate is one of the highest-profile clashes of the legislative session, centered on what education standards the state should use to teach its public school students and what tests should judge what they learn. The issue divides education leaders, teachers and parents.

The committee was hearing a bill by Rep. Brett Geymann, R-Lake Charles, that would have Louisiana draw up its own education standards in a multi-year process instead of using Common Core.

The state-specific standards would be developed by a 30-person commission and would need the backing of lawmakers before they could be rolled out in schools. Geymann said the development process would be more transparent, would involve state and local control and would be of the same quality or better than the Common Core.

"We're not taking a step back," said Rep. Rogers Pope, R-Denham Springs, co-sponsor of the bill.

The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education agreed in 2010 to phase in the Common Core standards, which have been adopted in most states as a way to compare states' performance and add more rigorous training for students.

Supporters, including business leaders and Superintendent of Education John White, say the standards promote critical thinking, raise expectations for students and better prepare them for college and careers.

White said shelving the Common Core would terminate the ability to measure children against their peers in other states and would cause teacher confusion by disrupting what they have started teaching.

"How does this bill help the children of the state of Louisiana? I have to tell you I have yet to hear a good response to that question," he said.

Backers of Geymann's bill say the standards didn't get enough public and legislative review and implementation was poorly handled. Critics of Common Core say using the multi-state standards shifts Louisiana to a nationalized education system that removes local control.

Leaders of organizations representing local school boards and superintendents said the roll-out of Common Core was uneven, with teachers having to write their own curricula, classrooms given few resources and parents provided little information about the standards.

"Superintendents feel like it's time to slow down and get the implementation of high standards right," said Ascension Parish Superintendent Patrice Pujol, president of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents, who supported Geymann's bill.

BESE member Holly Boffy said changing standards doesn't address the challenges of applying new standards in classrooms and testing.

"This is going to be devastating if we are required to start over," said Judy Vail, Common Core specialist and accountability coordinator for Calcasieu Parish public schools.

Gov. Bobby Jindal has dodged the issue for months. It remained unclear where the governor stands on Geymann's proposal, and he was out of state Wednesday while the hours-long debate was raging.

Lawmakers considering the bill questioned when the new standards would be developed, since the proposal doesn't call for a deadline.

"I don't want to run into the problem of everyone's out in limbo for 10 years," said Rep. Simone Champagne, R-Erath.

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