BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Frustration over a statewide shift to tougher educational standards called theCommon Core spilled into view Tuesday before Louisiana's top school board, which has found itself at the center of a maelstrom of criticism for approving the standards three years ago.
The Common Core is a set of grade-by-grade benchmarks to judge students' knowledge in math, English and reading. Forty-five states have adopted the standards, which will allow states to compare their students' performance.
The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approved Common Core without controversy in 2010. But since then, tea party supporters have raised concerns about the standards and are trying to pressure BESE to move Louisiana away from Common Core.
Teacher unions and school boards have joined the criticism, saying the state is pushing the shift to the new standards too quickly, without proper teacher training and district preparation.
Supporters told BESE on Tuesday that the standards will better prepare students for careers and college, and Superintendent John White offered his full-throated support for the tougher standards Tuesday.
White said the United States was falling behind other nations in educational achievement and Louisiana was in the bottom ranks of states. He said states and education leaders who realized the nation had a competitiveness challenge worked together to devise the standards.
"These standards will better prepare our students to succeed in the workforce," said Stephanie Cargile, with ExxonMobil.
Critics said the Common Core standards represent a shift to nationalized education, with the standards drawn up by outsiders who have a financial motive.
"If Common Core lives, freedom dies," said Ralph Roshto, of St. Tammany Parish.
They raised concerns Tuesday about the sharing of private student data. They talked of the standards stifling individual freedoms, and they described teaching that is too advanced for students and developmentally inappropriate.
"What I don't get is how state leadership expects the parents of Louisiana to accept change simply by believing in an unproven concept. I'm from Louisiana. In our culture, you have to prove to me something works before I buy it. Even then, I won't trust you until I see it for myself," said Barry Badon, a critic ofCommon Core from Calcasieu Parish.
Gov. Bobby Jindal had been a supporter of the Common Core. But as criticism has grown from tea party supporters and other conservative organizations, the Republican governor has urged BESE to comb through the concerns and determine if the state needs to change course.
The standards are being incorporated into state public school testing, with plans to have them fully in place by the 2014-15 school year.
Teachers are expected to use lesson plans that meet those standards, and the results on the standardized tests that will measure students to the Common Core benchmarks are used to evaluate teachers.
The state's teacher of the year, La'Keisha McKinney, said the adoption of the Common Core standards have forced her to take a deeper look at her instructional methods and improve them.
"I have noticed that my children, my students have become better problem-solvers," said McKinney, a reading and math teacher at R.J. Vial Elementary in St. Charles Parish who spoke in support of Common Core.