A state House committee on this week defeated two measures that opponents said would end the state’s move to the Common Core education standards.
Those votes did not end the highly charged debate, however.
Key House members said Friday that support is coalescing around a plan that would delay Common Core’s consequences for three years, a year longer than the current two-year schedule.
While teachers will work toward the news standards, as many have already been, the new standards and tests won’t yet affect how schools and school districts will be graded.
“The consensus in the House is to give an additional year,” said state Rep. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe, chairwoman of the Legislative Black Caucus. The five members of the black caucus on the House Education Committee cast the decisive votes Wednesday night against two anti-Common Core bills that were defeated on 12-7 votes.
Jackson said support for the new plan helped decide those votes.
The black caucus “took the position that we would not favor the repeal of Common Core, but we did favor delaying [the consequences of] the PARCC assessment,” Jackson said. PARCC — the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers exam — is the new test that public school kids from third through eighth grades are beginning to take in Louisiana.
Jackson and several other lawmakers on Friday said delaying the test’s impact would let the state keep moving forward with Common Core’s implementation while giving schools and teachers an additional year to adapt to the higher standards.
“The next time I go in front of my [constituents], I want to be able to tell them that everyone would have a full transition time,” said state Rep. Henry Burns, R-Houghton. “Three full years would do it.”
Burns, who was one of the Education Committee members who voted for the anti-Common Core bills, said he has sponsored a measure that could be amended to extend the test’s impact for the third year.
State Rep. Walt Leger, D-New Orleans, also has a bill that could be amended. Leger could not be reached for comment on Friday.
State Rep. Wesley Bishop, D-New Orleans, said the third year “could make sure that teachers have adequate resources,” including “computers and additional manpower.” Bishop is one of the black caucus members who voted against the anti-Common Core bills.
State Rep. Ed Price, D-Baton Rouge, another black caucus member, said the third year could alleviate the concerns of school officials and teachers that kids will score poorly under the new test, which is more difficult than the current test.
Lower scores would not only be embarrassing to local school superintendents, but schools could get lower grades and teachers could get lower evaluations. Under the current plan, adopted by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education last year,schools would not get lower grades before 2016, no matter the PARCC rest results.
“We need all the stakeholders to come together – superintendents, school boards and business leaders – to find common ground,” Price said.
The House Education Committee heard a parade of parents, two teacher union leaders, the school board association’s executive director and several school superintendents — including the president of the state superintendents’ association – voice support Wednesday for a measure by state Rep. Brett Geymann, R-Lake Charles, that would have stayed Common Core for at least two years while a new commission chose the education standards that Louisiana ought to have. Gov. Bobby Jindal – previously a strong Common Core supporter – backed Geymann’s bill.
Business leaders, school superintendents, state education leaders and teachers argued against the Geymann bill, saying it would derail Common Core.
The House Committee’s votes killed not only Geymann’s measure but also one by state Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, that would have prohibited Louisiana from using the PARCC test.
Chas Roemer, the president of BESE, said on Friday that the current two-year transition will help education officials determine how to improve teaching and student performance under Common Core.
“I’m not a fan of another year, but it’s not the end of the world,” Roemer said.