In the House of Representatives’ Education Committee Wednesday, lawmakers debated two bills that would dismantle the state’s transition to the Common Core State Standards – new expectations for what students should learn.

The bills, HB 381 and HB 558, would both prohibit administration of the Partnership for Assessment and Readiness for College and Careers test, or PARCC – the new Common Core-aligned exams – and create an state advisory commission that would develop another set of standards, although the bill doesn’t set a timeline for the development.

Ten minutes before the start of the regular house session meeting Wednesday, legislators were still hearing public comments on HB 381.

Proponents, including some public-school teachers, praised the standards as more rigorous than the state’s current guidelines. Schools have already aligned curriculums around the new standards, they said, and the Louisiana Department of Education piloted PARCC this year. To repeal the standards now, State Superintendent John White and others argued, would be an exercise in futility.

Still, representatives from the state superintendents association argued that the implementation was botched. They said teachers were asked to do too much in too short of a time. Rep. Brett Geymann, who co-sponsored one of the bills, said the standards were not developed or vetted locally. And other public-school teachers argued that Common Core is too advanced for some children.

Here are a few comments from today’s debate, and a look into their validity:

What they said…

“…(if) you look at how they define a standards process it requires transparency, it requires input from all parties involved and it requires a process. That’s not what we have.

 Give us an opportunity to have input, a seat at the table, transparency and accountability. And I think that is what separates us from where we are today. Not to mention that we are going to have state and local control.”

— Rep. Brett Geymann, R-Lake Charles

 …what the facts show

Actually, there was state involvement and buy-in. Louisiana educators and researchers actually advised the two groups that developed the standards — the National Governors Association and the national superintendents’ group — in 2009, before the state signed on for Common Core. Both groups are state-led, not federal organizations, although President Barack Obama’s administration has endorsed the standards.

 Further, the Louisiana School and District Accountability Commission, an 18-member panel made up of state and local educators, business community representatives and others that advises the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, approved the push for Common Core before BESE ordered its implementation in classrooms around the state. Since that time, Louisiana educators and other experts have taken a even greater role in shaping what the process looks like for Louisiana students.

What they said…

Common Core “implementation has been fraught with a lack of curriculum resources, uncertainty about the PARCC assessment and what that looks like….”

 — Patrice Pujol, Ascension Parish, Superintendent of Schools, president of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents

…what the facts show

By design, Common Core allows states to create their own curriculums to meet the standards, as opposed to outlining that curriculum for them. In some cases, teachers have been asked to create the curriculum themselves, a task Pujol says some teachers weren’t prepared for.

 To help alleviate some of uncertainty about the PARCC test, the state Department of Education began releasing sample test questions to the public in early February. Students began taking PARCC pilot assessments in some parishes this year, although full implementation isn’t until 2015. The department is also offering professional development for teachers this summer, White said.

In New Orleans, charter school support organizations New Schools for New Orleans and the Eastbank Collaborative of Charter Schools have committed to helping schools implement the standards – through Common Core-aligned lesson plans, sample test questions, professional development, and other support services.

What they said…

The cost is significant. (There is) an indeterminable added cost of test development than Louisiana itself would bear… rather than having to share that cost with other states.

— State Superintendent John White, on the cost of Louisiana educators and experts developing a new set of standards

 …what the facts show

Most likely, the state would have to shell out more cash to fund the creation of new standards. Actual costs would depend on how much the new standards and tests differ from the Common Core, how much districts would have to spend to change course, and the implementation date, the Legislature’s Fiscal Office noted.

 The fiscal office also estimated that it could cost as much as $75,000 simply to create the advisory commission. Should the commission choose to engage outside consultants to help it develop the standards, it could cost $30,000, or more, depending on how many consultants are hired. White’s office estimated that it would cost as much as $5.7 million to create assessments around the new standards.

Jessica Williams

Jessica Williams stays on top of the city's loosely organized collection of public schools, with a special emphasis on charter schools. In 2011 she was recognized by the Press Club of New Orleans for her...