Outcome of Common Core compromise appears murky

  • By MELINDA DESLATTE
  • Thursday, May 21, 2015 8:31pm
  • Opinion

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The compromise over Louisiana’s use of Common Core in public schools was heralded by supporters and critics of the multistate education standards.

But exactly what the deal would mean for Louisiana’s classrooms and its standardized testing is open to wide variations in interpretation. Whether it would ultimately scrap Common Core in public schools is definitely not clear.

Despite the uncertainty, lawmakers on both sides praised the deal they reached last week.

Rep. Brett Geymann, R-Lake Charles, a chief critic of the multistate education standards, said he was “glad that we’re putting down the sword.” On the other side, Rep. Steve Carter, a Common Core supporter and chairman of the House Education Committee, hailed the achievement and called it “an historic day.”

Legislators with less strong opinions on the issue simply expressed relief the high-profile feud could disappear from the legislative session even if it rages on in education circles.

The Common Core standards are benchmarks of what students should learn at each grade level in English and math. They’ve been adopted by more than 40 states as a way to better prepare students for college and careers. Opponents say the standards are developmentally inappropriate and part of federal efforts to nationalize education.

The compromise proposal is spread over three bills. Chief among the requirements is a review of the English and math standards used in public schools.

The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, or BESE, would continue its already-started review process and adopt any changes to the standards by March. Before that, public hearings would be required in each of Louisiana’s six congressional districts.

After BESE approval, the standards would have to go through Louisiana’s Administrative Procedures Act, which requires public notice, a comment period and legislative oversight. The next governor, to be elected this fall and take office in January, would get an up-or-down vote on the standards but couldn’t line-item veto individual standards.

If the revised standards were rejected, the Common Core standards would stay in place until agreement was reached on any revisions.

In the upcoming school year, the state education department would have limits on use of standardized testing questions from a multistate consortium tied to Common Core. Testing contracts for future years would be put in place after the standards review process.

Chief among the gray areas, the compromise doesn’t dictate that Common Core must be replaced. The standards review process could come up with only modest adjustments that largely keep the multistate standards intact.

Rep. John Schroder, R-Covington, one of the compromise negotiators and a Common Core critic, said he believes the deal puts Louisiana on a path to move away from Common Core.

That wasn’t the interpretation of Senate Education Committee Chairman Conrad Appel, R-Metairie, a fierce supporter of Common Core. He told his committee that he didn’t expect “large-scale changes” to the standards during the review, just “minor adjustments.”

“We believe we’ve got good standards. We’re going to build on those,” Appel said.

Whether the standards review becomes a wholesale rewrite or a rebranding of Common Core could largely be decided by the fall elections. Eight of the 11 BESE members will be chosen in elections this fall.

Whether a majority of BESE members support or oppose Common Core is certain to determine what emerges from the review process. How strongly Louisiana’s next governor feels about Common Core also could dictate whether revised standards get supported or rejected.

One thing that seems likely about the compromise proposal is that Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Common Core opponent, would be handed a mixed bag. He wouldn’t be able to say he got rid of Common Core in Louisiana because the standards review wouldn’t be complete before he leaves office in January.

So far, Jindal has been lukewarm about the deal. He has declined to endorse the bills that are part of the compromise proposal, and top administration officials have listed several concerns with them.

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