BATON ROUGE, LA (FOX44) — There are lots of questions about what our children are going to learn in school this year, and how they will learn it. And as Governor Bobby Jindal trades lawsuits with the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, the idea of Common Core only becomes more confusing.
"I think we still have a long way to go, as far as helping parents understand really what Common Core is and why it benefits their children," said Eric Lewis, state director for the Black Alliance for Educational Opportunities (BAEO).
And the distance becomes greater with every lawsuit that challenges the new standards. Wednesday night, BAEO hosted a panel discussion to explain what Common Core State Standards are and why Louisiana should continue implementing them. The panel included State Representative Pat Smith (D-Baton Rouge), a teacher, a parent, and a representative from the Louisiana Department of Education.
Latricia Bowers, the parent on the panel, said Common Core will make our students smarter and more competitive in the workforce.
"A lot of people don't have a high school diploma, or if they do, they graduated not getting the standard of education that they should have received," she stated. "So that poses a challenge for me as an employer."
Bowers moved with her family from California. Her daughter wants to go to school at University of Southern California. "I don't want her to transfer back to California and not have the same level of education," she said, "so that's a concern for me."
Common Core is a list of the skills students should know at the end of each year. Most states are adopting those standards, to make education more even nationally. Michelle Williams, the teacher on the panel, discovered that Louisiana was struggling when she taught in Houston and received several students who were displaced by Hurricane Katrina. "What we noticed is that they were working, even our fifth graders from Louisiana were working two years below grade level when they came to our systems," she recalled.
Lewis believes Common Core will help black students particularly.
"I think that, in closing the achievement gap, that that's going to be a key factor," he said. "Obviously, it raises the bar for all children. But if we continue to set higher expectations, then it gives black children the opportunity so we remove a ceiling from them, and it gives them a better opportunity to thrive academically."
But testing based on the Common Core Standards is on hold. Governor Jindal's office canceled the contracts for the PARCC test that was scheduled to be given this spring. A group of parents and a charter operator filed a lawsuit against the governor, and BESE recently added itself as a plaintiff in that suit. The governor's office responded by filing a countersuit.
"In my opinion, I feel the governor has overreached his authority in being able to stop the contracts," Rep. Smith said.
"I'm glad that it's going to court. In my opinion, I do believe that there's some things that need to be settled, and maybe that's the only place they can do it."
BAEO is hosting another meeting Thursday night, at 6:00 p.m., at the Greenwell Springs Library, 11300 Greenwell Springs Rd. State Rep. Ted James (D-Baton Rouge) will be the special guest.