No need to rush reform

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 16, 2013

Perhaps the only common denominator in the rollout of the state’s new standardized curriculum for all students is widespread disapproval from Louisiana’s educators.
One by one school districts are petitioning to be withdrawn from the state’s new Common Core State Standards.
At least one petition has been adopted by a school board calling for the withdrawal of districts from Partnership for Assessment of Readiness and College and Careers testing, commonly known as PARCC, scheduled to be implemented for the 2014-15 school year.
For the short term, the vocal opposition is certainly justified, and undoubtedly the state needs to rethink its implementation timetable.
But for the long-term, Common Core will be beneficial to the students as it introduces innovative teaching methods for educators and a new learning process for students. Overall, Common Core, which is the culmination of an effort by several governors along with the input of educators, is geared toward developing students’ higher level learning and critical thinking skills.
As designed, it creates more of an interpretive learning process, forcing students to do more than standard memorization of facts to be repeated on a multiple choice test. It holds students accountable for their own education and through more sophisticated testing methods allows teachers a clearer evaluation of how each student is progressing.
An oft-repeated refrain from educators,
however, is that “one size does not fit all.”  Not only do the learning needs of students differ by region or even state, but they often differ within a school district. And in this
way Common Core shares some of the
same pitfalls that teaching for LEAP testing did.
Rather than adopting a universal curriculum, each district should allow some flexibility for principals to set their own curriculums tailored to the individual needs of the students. It’s a practice that is gaining traction among some parochial school districts.
At this point, however, everyone, including Gov. Bobby Jindal, state Superintendent of Education John White and state educators need to take a step back and delay the implementation of the PARCC testing until the educators and students alike become acclimated to the new standards.
To force PARCC testing during the next school year would likely produce disastrous results. Common Core needs to be implemented incrementally, while setting a reasonable future goal for full adoption.
One small step back can eventually mean one educational step forward for all students.