Open letter from “BESE 4” in response to recent Common Core events.

I am publishing an open letter from 4 BESE members in response to recent actions of John White and recent editorials from 4 confused legislators that support Common Core, but don’t understand that even if they “review” it, it cannot be changed if the review finds anything lacking.  Common Core supporters have occasionally claimed that up to 15% more content can be supplemented or added to Common Core, but it cannnot be altered in any way. If have seen nothing official from the patent holders of Common Core affirming this claim.  Recent presentations from commoncore.org strongly advise against altering it in any way because it is paced to not permit any time for anything extra.

Jason France (BESE Candidate, district 6)

At the request of LA Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) RepresentativeJane Smith and others, I am forwarding this Letter to the Editor,or possible Op-Ed piece, to your publication. It is significant in that it is signed by four BESE members and 28 current state legislators.   

 

This unique group, working as a consensus-building block of state elected officials, has composed this “Open Letter to the citizens of Louisiana.”  They point out the areas of agreement between those opposed to the national Common Core standards and the aligned test PARCC, and those who support the national standards and test, and tend to agree more with the state superintendent.  

 

Following on the heels of this week’s media announcement by the state superintendent, giving his recommendations to address issues of concern with the national standards, this group of BESE members and state legislators focuses on agreeable solutions that will work and be acceptable with both the state and the parents and public school systems across Louisiana.

 

This introduction of a “REAL Louisiana Plan” precedes the opening of the 2015 Spring Legislative Session, and provides a foundation on which all sides can build.

 

—  Mary K. Bellisario

 

_________________________________________________   

 

“A REAL Louisiana Plan”

An open letter to the citizens of Louisiana:

 

 

The past few days have seen some very encouraging developments concerning public education in Louisiana, and we are optimistic that more important work can and will be accomplished over the next few months for the best interests of the children of our state.

 

On Monday, Superintendent John White openly acknowledged some of the problems with Common Core in Louisiana, proposed three new recommendations for consideration of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE), and agreed that Louisiana should have its own K-12 education standards.

 

Two days earlier, a letter by four Common Core supporters in the Legislature was published statewide making similar recommendations and calling for BESE to “continue the Louisiana plan” for education reforms.  These are positive steps, and we look forward to working together during the upcoming legislative session to make critical adjustments to ensure that a REAL Louisiana plan advances.

 

Superintendent White has suggested that BESE needs to review the state’s academic standards as early as this fall, and we agree. Indeed, his suggestion that BESE should convene a commission of Louisiana educators, parents and university leaders to assist in a comprehensive review is one that we have long advocated.  However, we note there will be no point in engaging such a review if the stakeholders here are limited by the existing Common Core State Standards Initiative that was developed elsewhere. Since no more than 15% of the Common Core Standards can be altered or changed by participating states, it seems obvious that our mutual goal of improving Louisiana standards cannot be reached so long as we remain participants in Common Core.  

 

With regard to student assessment, Superintendent White has suggested that our Department of Education should follow the Administrative Procedures Act and allow a transparent bid process for vendors to propose a test that is “unique to Louisiana while comparable to other states.” We certainly agree and have been advocating this for nearly a year.  However, we note it will be impossible to obtain bids for a new test if its underlying standards are not yet decided.  It would thus be unwise to rush into a new testing contract without having these foundational questions answered first.   

 

We agree with Superintendent White and our colleagues who have now acknowledged that atwo year baseline of testing results is needed before any sanctions are placed on our students, teachers, schools and districts.  Our teachers and districts work extremely hard to comply with every state mandate, and this delay will greatly reduce the stresses related to implementation.  Superintendent White has been very vocal on this point, and we agree that no hardworking teacher, principal, or district should be punished based on decisions made outside their control. 

 

Parents and teachers have voiced their concerns loudly across this state and nation, and we elected officials should be listening.  Indeed, that is our duty.  The people of our state are understandably wary of all tests, textbooks and curriculum that are aligned to national standards, because such an alignment is always accompanied by the dangers of federal intrusion and wasteful spending that brings no benefit to our kids.  

 

Superintendent White also acknowledged this week that we are “over-testing” our students and thus, “We all need to eliminate any tests that are not meaningfully contributing to student learning.”  We certainly agree, and it is our belief that the current test aligned with Common Core and PARCC is one of the problems that should be eliminated here once and for all—as other states have already done.

 

Again, we reiterate our optimism about these critical points on which more and more state leaders now agree.  We look forward to working with all in good faith to ensure that in the very near future we are truly developing a REAL Louisiana Plan for the children of our great state.  They deserve it, and the stakes are too high for us to deliver anything less.  

 

Best regards,

 

Jane Smith, BESE, member at large

Bossier Parish

                                                                  

Mary Harris BESE, District 4                                                  

Dr. Lottie Beebe, BESE, District 3                                                                                                                                                                                              

Carolyn Hill, BESE, District 8     

                                            

Representative James Armes, District 30                                                                               

Representative Terry Brown, District 22                                    

Representative Richard Burford, District 7

Representative Henry Burns, District 9

Representative Greg Cromer, District 90

Representative Brett Geymann, District 35

Representative Lance Harris, District 25

Representative Kenny Havard, District 62

Representative Cameron Henry, District 82

Representative Bob Hensgens, District 47

Representative Valarie Hodges, District 64

Representative Frank Hoffman, District 15

Representative Paul Hollis, District 104

Representative Frank Howard, District 24

Representative Mike Johnson, District 8

Representative Eddie Lambert, District 59

Representative Jim Morris, District 1

Representative Kevin Pearson, District 76

Representative Rogers Pope, District 71

Representative John Schroder,District 77

Representative Alan Seabaugh, District 5

Representative Lenar Whitney, District 53

Senator A.G. Crowe, District 1

Senator Bob Kostelka, District 35

Senator Elbert Guillory, District 24

Senator Fred Mills, District 22

Senator Jonathan Perry, District 26

Senator John Smith, District 30

 

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