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Parents and students gather Monday at the Vernon Parish School Board office in Leesville to protest the implementation of the Common Core standards. (Lauren Manary / American Press)

Parents and students gather Monday at the Vernon Parish School Board office in Leesville to protest the implementation of the Common Core standards. (Lauren Manary / American Press)

Vernon rally held against mandated curriculum

Last Modified: Tuesday, November 19, 2013 11:08 AM

By Lauren Manary / American Press

Vernon Parish families joined others across central and Southwest Louisiana on Monday in protest against the implementation of Common Core State Standards.

School systems across the state rallied parents and invited them to show their opposition to the new curriculum via the social media site Facebook. Although some 20 or so residents participated in the protest at the School Board offices in Leesville, many parents opted to keep their children from attending school to show their solidarity. Some protesters carried signs and encouraged passing cars to honk their horn to show their support against the state-mandated curriculum.

The standards are considered to be more rigorous than previous statewide standards, which have left Louisiana students ranking 44th and 46th in the nation in English language arts and math, respectively.

Johnica Farris, who has two nieces, a stepchild and four children in the Vernon Parish school system, came to the protest with all of seven of the students in her family. Farris, who lives in Hornbeck, said the students have struggled to keep up with the harder coursework under Common Core, which implemented English learning arts this year and math last year.

Homework time, she said, is particularly daunting.

“We’re here protesting Common Core,” Farris said. “The federal government is coming in and teaching (the children) what they want instead of the basics.”

Evelyn Smith, who has a nieces and nephews at Hicks High School, said she would like to see Vernon Parish adopt a resolution similar to St. Tammany Parish, which all but eradicated the standards from the school system earlier this month.

Vernon Parish Superintendent Jackie Self said the new standards have caused tension in the classroom with teachers sometimes overwhelmed by Common Core, but said the school system has no intention of stepping away from it.

“We can make this work,” Self said. “It’s going to be a transition time, it’s going to be stressful. It’s going to be tough, but we can make this work.”

Self added the parish has made adjustments to slow the implementation of the standards so as to alleviate some of the stresses on teachers and students. He said he was confident Vernon Parish, which earned the fourth highest district performance scores in the state, would be able to maintain that standard even after the implementation of Common Core.

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