Education has long been a focus of the state and national government as both try to make sure students can compete with each other between states and internationally for jobs in the future.
It’s a simple ideal that has seen issues in the execution. The latest attempt, “Common Core”, has seen disgruntled educators, parents and more for a variety of reasons.
In Vermilion, it was parents questioning a fourth grade worksheet that used urban slang.
In Acadia, the problems with the new curriculum has been much simpler – PARCC Assessments and homework.
“I received a call the other day from a parent who wants to speak at the next school board meeting,” said Superintendent John Bourque. “I’m surprised it hasn’t been more, actually.”
The parent, like others, was concerned with being able to help his/her child with homework without a textbook, an increasing problem, particularly in math.
“The hardest thing for parents to fight is not being able to help their kids with homework,” said Bourque. “There are no textbooks, and the way we are teaching math is completely different than anything we’ve witnessed before. It’s frustrating for parents.
“The biggest struggle for parents is the kids’ grades might go down a bit and they can’t help them with the homework, so their hands are tied.
With no textbooks to bring home, Acadia has opted for a homework-at-school approach and a deeper focus on reading at the home
“Our focus is to try and do the homework at school and do the Accelerated Reading at home with the parents. That way they are reading at home, which also helps,” said Bourque.
“Homework should not be punitive, it should be a reinforcement. But, what we’re sending home, the parents can’t help with.
“Like at South Crowley, the student has to make an attempt at the problem, but if he doesn’t understand it, they circle it and the next day that’s where the teacher starts.”
The Common Core State Standards is an attempt to level the playing field across the country and globally for students, making the measurement of student achievement more universal, particularly through the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness of College and Careers) Assessment.
“The big problem that isn’t being addressed as much is PARCC Assessments,” said Bourque. “It’s the assessment piece that’s driving people crazy.
“In regards to how to teach it, if the assessment says you have to know this and you don’t fall in line, it’s a problem making that benchmark.
“I think that’s the biggest part of it.”
Overall, for Bourque, the biggest problem related to Common Core is perhaps how the assessment is set to show that the program’s immediate impact is not what many had hoped for. But as the superintendent points out, any program of this magnitude needs time to work.
“It changed completely the way students are learning,” he said. “If you are going to do that, it’s going to take a while. When you rush into something, you really don’t come out with something good.
“I really feel it’s like building a house — you build a solid foundation, then you start building.”
The assessments, however, are proving to be problematic for many across the country as states like Florida have opted out of PARCC and are hoping institute their own assessment measures, something Bourque says would probably work best for Louisiana as well.
“If the state determines the assessment, then you can tailor it for your kids,” he said.
Bourque still holds out hope that things might change in Louisiana before the end of the year in regard to the assessment. But in the interim, his focus — along with the parish’s focus — is on helping students succeed. And Acadia Parish teachers are once again answering the call to deal with the changes, the superintendent said.
“Our teachers and employees have really put in a lot of extra hours, but the evaluations are not going to show how much effort is being put in by our teachers and students,” Bourque said.