Common Core FAQ

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CABL Supports Louisiana’s Common Core State Standards


What are Louisiana’s Common Core State Standards?

Louisiana’s Common Core State Standards are a set of higher expectations in math and English that were developed with input from state leaders and adopted by BESE to ensure that every student graduates high school prepared for the future. These new standards are replacing Louisiana’s older less rigorous standards. They focus on critical thinking, strong writing skills, problem solving and providing students a deeper understanding of what they are learning. Through the use of enhanced technology and strong teaching practices they are aimed at ensuring students have the real world skills they’ll need to succeed in college or careers.


Who developed the Common Core State Standards?

The Common Core State Standards represent the culmination of work that began as far back as 1989. That’s when a diverse group of math teachers introduced a new set of “consensus standards” with the goal of adding more rigor to the math courses being taught in American classrooms. Around that same time, new data were beginning to show that in all subjects, student performance seemed to vary widely among the states and experts concluded that some states appeared to be setting their academic standards too low. This dovetailed with other data which were indicating a new and alarming trend – the performance of U.S. students was falling below that of their peers in other countries. In the face of an increasingly global economy, this was seen by leaders in many states as a growing obstacle to economic development.

In 2009, as a result of these and other developments, the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers invited state leaders to participate in a new initiative to develop a set of mutually agreed upon standards in English Language Arts and math. Every state except Alaska and Texas participated in the development phase.

The two organizations put together a diverse group of experts who, with extensive input from state officials, drafted a set of standards in English Language Arts and math. The draft standards were widely circulated and more than 10,000 educators and citizens offered comments and feedback which were then incorporated into a new draft. The final document was unveiled in June of 2010 with an enthusiastic, bi-partisan response from state officials, educators and business leaders.


What role did the federal government have in the creation of the standards?

The federal government had no role in developing the standards. They were developed by the state consortium that came together voluntarily to establish a new set of rigorous standards. The federal government has encouraged states to adopt the standards through grants in the $4.3 billion Race to the Top program and waivers from requirements in the No Child Left Behind Act. But the grants were simply voluntary incentives and states were not required to adopt the Common Core to receive waivers.


How many states have adopted the Common Core standards?

To date 45 states have adopted the standards. No state that originally adopted the standards has since rejected them, though some states have chosen not to participate in the testing component.


Will the federal government control the testing of students on the Common Core standards?

No. There are two consortia of states that are developing assessments. One is called The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium which includes about 25 states. The other is the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) made up of about 18 states, including Louisiana.  These consortia represent a voluntary collaboration of states to design a common metric for what it takes to be ready for college and careers and a means to truly compare the progress of Louisiana’s students with millions of their peers across the country.  States retain full authority to determine what types of assessments to use. Louisiana has adopted PARCC for grades K-8 but state leaders are still determining the best testing approach for high schools, given the fact that high school students are now required to take the ACT.


What about concerns that Common Core will create a national data base of personal data on students and violate their privacy?

By necessity certain data must be collected about students and their performance on tests. Louisiana has done this for years as part of the state’s school accountability system. Nothing in the Common Core State Standards initiative involves the creation of a national database of students’ personal information, nor does it require states to share any information with any entity. In addition, federal laws, such as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), dictate data use by all states, including Louisiana, and any organizations that may work with the state. Louisiana has its own privacy protections in state law and BESE has recently strengthened its privacy measures and procedures. The consortia will not collect any data on student attitudes or beliefs, as some have suggested.


What are the subjects covered by the Common Core standards?    

The only subjects covered by Common Core are English Language Arts and mathematics.


Do the Common Core standards provide for specific lesson plans and curricula that must be used by teachers or schools?

No. The Common Core standards are, just as the name suggests, standards. Standards address what a student should know and be able to do at each grade level. The curriculum represents the plans, techniques, and materials for getting students to achieve those goals. The Common Core establishes no curriculum. In fact, in Louisiana the curriculum is developed at the local district level and in some cases by individual teachers in individual schools. It is a completely localfunction. Neither the state nor the federal government prescribe any curriculum through Common Core or any other mechanism.


Are there any specific books that students will be required to read or book lists teachers will have to choose from?

No. There are no texts of any kind that students will be required to read through Common Core. At each grade level, there are examples of the types of texts students should be able to read, comprehend and analyze, but no prescribed texts. The Common Core does provide sample reading lists, but they are examples based on the rigor of the text, not the content. Every school district selects its own reading lists and none are required to include any material from the sample lists. Clearly, though, many districts will choose to use various texts on the sample lists because they include numerous classic works of literature as well as famous and important historical documents, speeches and biographies.


What if parents believe their child is reading books or texts for class that they feel are inappropriate?

If for any reason parents see their child reading instructional material they have questions or concerns about, they should take the matter up with their individual school or school district. Common Core does not prescribe any required reading materials. That is strictly a local decision.


Is it true that the Common Core prohibits instruction in cursive writing?

No. The Common Core standards are silent on cursive writing. The standards do emphasize the use of technology in writing, creating documents and taking tests – a 21st century necessity that did not exist even a decade ago – but they do not prohibit or discourage writing in other forms. Indeed, a number of states are continuing the use of cursive writing in their curricula, which they have full flexibility to do.


Are the new standards too hard for students?

The new standards do inject more rigor into the classroom and will no doubt require teachers, principals and school districts to allocate adequate time, target appropriate resources and develop new strategies to give students the best opportunity to succeed. Perhaps most importantly, the new Common Core assessments will better measure students’ ability to think critically and apply knowledge – not simply memorize facts – and thereby better assist teachers in preparing their students for the rigor of college and tackling real-world problems.  It can be fairly stated, however, that at first, many Louisiana students will not test well at what many other states and national tests consider “proficient.” on Common Core standards. Louisiana officials plan to avoid negative consequences to schools and students in the first few years, and then raise standards over time to be more in line with national “proficiency” norms.


Are the new standards too easy for students?

The limited number of national comparisons between Louisiana and other states make it abundantly clear that Louisiana’s previous standards lacked the rigor needed for our students, as a whole, to be adequately prepared for college or careers. The state Department of Education has determined that before implementation of the Common Core, Louisiana students were learning material that was about one-year behind what students were being exposed to in other states. The Common Core standards do add rigor and will eliminate the current disadvantage our students have in competing in the global economy.  If some districts were in fact teaching to higher standards than those required by the state, they can continue to do that even with Common Core.


Do the Common Core standards encourage students to learn watered-down math by teaching things such as 5+5=11?

The Common Core standards are not watered-down math. They represent a more rigorous pathway that leads to students being better prepared for college or career when they graduate from high school. One example of this is that fractions and algebraic concepts are introduced to students in earlier grades than they have been in the past. This gives students greater exposure to them and, thus, more time to understand and master them. It is true that the new standards do not place as great a focus on simple memorization of things like multiplication tables. Instead, they place a much greater emphasis on developing students’ ability to understand various concepts and explain how they arrived at the correct answer to problems. The conservative Fordham Institute reviewed the Common Core math standards and concluded they are “far superior” to standards now in place in most states. “They are ambitious and challenging for students and educators alike. Accompanied by a properly aligned, content-rich curriculum, they provide K-12 teachers with a sturdy instructional framework for this most fundamental of subjects.”


What about the stories that have been reported about difficulties implementing the Common Core in certain school districts?

As with any big change, especially when 70 very different school districts across Louisiana are involved, one can expect initial implementation to be uneven. Some districts planned the transition very early and have moved forward successfully. Others lacked the know-how and needed additional assistance while still others were simply resistant to the change. In giving school districts complete flexibility to develop their own curricula in alignment with the Common Core standards we have also given them greater responsibility for teacher preparation and professional development.


Will the new tests be more expensive to administer?

No. Louisiana currently has a full regimen of standardized assessments known as LEAP, iLEAP and End-of-Course tests. The state Department of Education has indicated the PARCC tests will cost about the same as current tests to administer. PARCC is computer-based, but even before PARCC, Louisiana’s school districts were already making great strides in providing the 21st century technology needed to prepare students for the digital world. The PARCC testing won’t begin until the 2014-2015 school year.