Wednesday, 5 March 2014

White suggests slowing down impact of Common Core

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana's education superintendent Thursday proposed a two-year delay for the consequences from toughened educational standards on school grades, teacher evaluations and student promotion in public schools.

John White outlined recommendations for how he'd like to roll out the statewide shift to the Common Core standards, a more rigorous set of grade-level benchmarks adopted by most states for what students should learn in reading, writing and math.

He 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.

White's proposal will be considered by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education next month. His recommendations are designed to lessen criticism of the state's use of the Common Core by lawmakers, parents and teacher unions.

"If we want Louisiana jobs to go to Louisiana graduates, we have to raise expectations for students," White said in a statement. "I have traveled the state seeking the input of educators and parents on how best to do this, and I believe that providing more time for educators, parents and students to learn these new expectations is critical to achieving that objective."

Forty-five states have adopted the Common Core. BESE agreed to use the standards in Louisiana three years ago, and they are being phased into public school classrooms and testing, with plans to have them fully in place by the 2014-15 year.

Critics have said the transition to the standards in Louisiana has happened with too little guidance, training and funding. Lawmakers at a recent hearing said state education officials were holding teachers and students accountable without giving them enough preparation.

Changes proposed by White include:

—Tests taken by students in 2015 will be the baseline for slowly raising the bar for how schools are graded over a 10-year period. Public schools will be graded on a curve in 2014 and 2015, so that the same number of schools will be rated at the A, B and C level through 2015.

—New tests planned for 2015 will be taken by students in third grades through eighth grades, but not students in high school. Students in third and fourth grades will take the tests on paper, and the older students will take computerized tests. Schools will be eligible for one-year waivers on computerized testing if they don't have the technology.

—Teachers won't be judged based on growth in student achievement on standardized tests for 2014 and 2015. Their evaluations instead will rely on other information and scoring.

—Local school districts can give promotion waivers to fourth-grade students even if they don't pass the standardized testing requirements in 2014 and 2015, if the districts feel students are showing progress. Meanwhile, eighth-graders who don't pass the standardized testing requirements during that time can advance to high school and take remedial classes there.

White's also agreed to provide curriculum guidelines to school systems, after complaints that districts were left on their own to determine what they should be teaching to meet the standards.

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