BATON ROUGE, Louisiana — Amid an ongoing political storm over Common Core educational standards for public schools, a state committee began Wednesday to review Louisiana's educational benchmarks — but some feared the deadline is too short and the panel would end up rebranding the controversial standards that started the debate.
The 26-member standards review committee, which held its first meeting in a hotel ballroom, was created by state lawmakers to comb through the grade-by-grade English and math yardsticks to determine which ones should be kept, tossed or tweaked. The review came in response to loud criticism of Common Core.
The Common Core standards have been adopted by more than 40 states to better prepare students for college and careers. Opponents say the standards are developmentally inappropriate and part of federal efforts to nationalize education.
The committee includes teachers, other educators, school administrators, higher education officials and parents and has even more members on various subcommittees. It will submit its recommendations to the state education board in February after public hearings in Shreveport, Alexandria, Crowley, Covington and New Orleans.
"The work that you're going to do is of such importance because it presents the opportunity for the future of Louisiana," Senate Education Committee Chairman Conrad Appel, R-Metairie, told committee members in a wide-ranging public comment period early in the day.
Retired St. Tammany Parish algebra teacher Anthony Nichols applauded the review effort, but suggested the deadline set by state lawmakers is too short.
"I question, I wonder if it is a reasonable, good amount of time to accomplish this task," he said.
Common Core opponent Kathryn Goppelt urged against only making modest changes to Common Core.
"We are here today in good faith to develop Louisiana standards by Louisiana educators," she said. "We're not here to rebrand Common Core with a cursory review or to do some tweaking."
Jim Garvey, a member of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, or BESE, pushed committee members to "be bold in making your recommendations for changes, but keep the bar high."
BESE had planned a standards review process, but state lawmakers placed it into law as part of a deal brokered earlier this year to end legislative disputes over Common Core.
Whether the review will jettison Common Core or only make modest adjustments remains unclear.
Regina Sanford, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction for the St. Tammany Parish school system and the person selected by the state education board to chair the review committee, pledged an open, unbiased evaluation.
"It's very important that the work that we do today provides students with a solid foundation on which to build their futures," she said.
But Sanford also suggested the discussion should steer clear of curricula, textbooks and instructional materials, saying those are decisions that are left to individual school districts.
The education board will decide in March which of the committee's recommendations to adopt. Those proposals will go to the House and Senate education committees and the governor for review.
The legislative committees and the governor could reject the standards in an up-or-down vote, not a line-item veto of individual standards. If the revised standards are rejected, Common Core stays in place.