Last Modified: Monday, October 07, 2013 9:29 PM
BATON ROUGE (AP) — State education leaders shifted to a more rigorous set of testing standards for public schools, but have improperly left local school districts to grapple with applying them, a school boards leader said Monday.
Louisiana's state education board voted three years ago to use the Common Core standards, a tougher set of grade-level benchmarks adopted by most states across the nation for what students should learn in English, reading and math.
The standards are being incorporated into state public school testing, with plans to have them fully in place by the 2014-15 school year.
Scott Richard, executive director of the Louisiana School Boards Association, said Superintendent of Education John White made the shift to those standards more difficult last year when he scrapped a state-led transition plan developed before White was in charge.
Richard said the decision left local districts to develop their own curricula to match the Common Core standards, without a "strategic, well-thought-out plan." He described teachers looking to other states for lesson plans and searching online for curriculum ideas.
"There's a sidestepping of responsibility," he told the Press Club of Baton Rouge.
White has called it empowering for teachers to choose their own curricula, and he disagreed Monday with suggestions that his Department of Education wasn't doing enough to help train teachers.
He said the department has provided sample lessons by grade and subject area and videos of how to teach them, along with guidance of what curricula are offered by publishing companies around the country.
"We want to be doing as much as we can to help. We have provided as much guidance as certainly any state," White said.
Forty-five states have adopted the Common Core standards, which were developed in a joint process among states and allow states to compare testing results. Louisiana's Board of Elementary and Secondary Education adopted a phase-in approach of the standards in 2010.
Teachers are expected to use lesson plans that meet those standards, and the results on the standardized tests that will measure students to the Common Core benchmarks are used to evaluate teachers.
Recently, Common Core has generated political complaints from tea party supporters and others who say the standards are designed to nationalize education.
But Richard's complaints Monday were about the logistics of implementing the standards, saying districts need a meaningful professional development program and more money for the technology involved for some of the testing requirements.
"In Louisiana, we're building the airplane as we fly it," he said.
White said he doesn't believe the state should mandate which curriculum is used by school districts, saying the private sector is better at providing curriculum than state bureaucrats. He also said teachers have different needs by district and classroom.
"The idea that government should itself develop dictates as to what people do every day is wrong," he said. "We just believe that in order for teachers to learn they need to make choices for themselves. That's not to say we're not guiding them."