This statement was delivered to the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Statement to BESE on CCSS and PARCC

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has scheduled a special meeting On July 1, at 11:30 A.M., to respond to the executive orders by Governor Jindal that would stop the implementation of the Common Core State Standards and the related PARCC testing. Assuming that BESE allows the public to comment before taking action, the following is the statement I plan to make before BESE:

My name is Michael Deshotels, and I am a retired Louisiana educator who writes a blog for educators and for parents. I am here to request that BESE consider at least a suspension of Common Core and the related PARCC testing in Louisiana until Louisiana educators can revise and improve our present Louisiana standards. I am talking about the standards that were rated second in the nation by Education Weekly just over 2 years ago. I believe there are several good reasons for a change in policy on CCSS and there is nothing more appropriate than correcting a policy that we have come to understand is wrong and harmful to our students.

There is growing evidence that the CCSS are poorly designed and the implementation of them is a boondoggle. Why would we want to subject our Louisiana students to this unnecessary experiment? Let other states use their children as guinea pigs while we in Louisiana continue and improve our own system.

In January of this year, I asked the readers of my blog to give their opinion on Common Core and PARCC. I have asked that each BESE member be provided with a copy of my post describing the results of the survey, but I will briefly summarize results of that survey here:

2,724 persons responded to the survey which was available on my blog for a 10 day period near the end of January of this year. My estimate is that the majority of persons who answered the survey were educators (because the majority of my readers are educators), but there were a significant number of school board members and parents who found the survey and responded to it also.

A total of 1954 respondents or 72% chose the option that stated the following: “Do away with both CCSS and PARCC and substitute an improved version of GLEs as the standards for all the basic core subjects. Louisiana would implement its own testing as has been done in the past.”

Only 61 respondents, or just 2% chose the option that stated the following: “Implement the CCSS just as has been prescribed by Superintendent John White with the approval of BESE.”

Based on these survey results I believe it is incorrect to say that most educators in our schools are enthusiastic about Common Core and PARCC testing. I believe it would be much more accurate to say that our teachers and school principals, because they are professionals, will do their best to implement the education policy of this state even if they have serious misgivings about the value of such policies. I believe that BESE owes them the respect of coming up with a policy that is more effective and more appropriate for our students than the Common Core and the PARCC testing.

In addition to conducting this survey on CC, I have studied the CC standards in detail and tried to understand how they will actually work in the classroom. It is my best judgment as an educator for over 40 years in this state that the CCSS are not appropriate for the majority of the students in our schools and that continued implementation of these standards and the PARCC testing will do more harm than good to our students. Many of the standards are not age appropriate as has been confirmed by more than 500 early childhood educators, and many of the standards are not practical enough for the majority of our students who pursue technical careers. I believe these standards are a one-size-fits all approach that will not give most Louisiana students the education they need to be successful in their careers and as citizens of Louisiana and the United States.

I have also carefully studied the development of the CCSS and found that no effort whatsoever was made to field test the standards and to modify them to adjust for any deficiencies or weaknesses. We now know that the standards were not developed according to accepted practices for the development and implementation of standards. The Common Core standards were developed mostly by persons who have never set foot in a regular classroom. The standards are not practical. These standards have already failed miserably in New York state where 70% of all students failed the testing related to CCSS.

The creators of Common Core, have claimed that the CCSS will prepare all students (every single one of them) for college and careers, yet there have been no scientific studies whatsoever to determine the truth of this statement. The developers also claim that the CCSS will help reduce the achievement gap between privileged and underprivileged, wealthy and poor, students. But most of the millions of dollars spent on Common Core have been spent promoting the standards and almost nothing to determine if they actually do what is being claimed. On the issue of closing the achievement gap, we now know, based on the first round of testing, that the achievement gap was actually widened instead of narrowed in New York state.

Not one penny of the billions Bill Gates money or the Race to the top money has been spent on finding out if the CCSS actually worked before they were implemented. All of that money has been spent on just selling us and various influential groups on the Common Core . . . . sight unseen. In fact BESE adopted Common Core sight unseen in 2010. Yes BESE adopted the standards before they were even written!

There were no discussions held by BESE for parents and teachers to review the actual CCSS because the specific standards did not exist when they were adopted. So don’t blame the parents who now are complaining about what they have recently seen their children bringing home from school.

I am here as an experienced educator to ask that you do the right thing by listening to the parents and teachers who are telling you that we in Louisiana can do better than the CCSS. We do not need a one-size-fits-all set of standards. We need standards that respect the individual differences among our students and does not attempt to standardize our students. We need standards that respect our teachers and stop dictating every thing they do with a single state test. We need to start reducing the time spent on expensive state testing and endless test prep. Our teachers love to teach and inspire children, not rehearse them for tests!

Education will not come to a halt in Louisiana if this board is willing to take a pause in the rush to these standards and adopt standards that are more appropriate to our state and our students. It was only a few years ago that the LEAP tests did not even exist, and yet our teachers were still educating students even though they were not being forced to prepare students for state tests. Our children are in good hands. They will be better off if we listen to those who have dedicated their careers to educating our children instead of implementing the latest education reform fad promoted by young Bill Gates employees or by persons hired to make standardized tests for the Pearson company.

Thank you.