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Schools look to standardize

VIDALIA — Even though there was no final exam at the end, Concordia Parish School Board members put on their thinking caps for two informative presentations Thursday night regarding the ad valorem tax and common core standards.

Concordia Parish Common Core State Standards specialist Rhonda Wilson presented the board with a basic overview of what the standards are, how it affects Concordia schools and a timeline of when the new programs will be implemented.

“Right now we’re aiming too fast and trying to hit too many things in the classroom,” Wilson said. “So the common core gets us to slow down and teach a limited number of things, but make sure they understand those before moving on.”

The Common Core State Standards is an effort led by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers to establish a single set of clear educational standards for English-Language Arts and Mathematics that states can share and adopt.

The main goal is to indicate what a student should know and be able to do in a specific grade or course by the end of some time period in all participating states.

Those goals are similar to what Louisiana currently refers to as Grade Level Expectations or “GLEs.”

In the English-Language Arts section, Wilson said the common core classroom would focus more on informational texts to prepare for college and career, instead of the current classrooms which focus on fiction literature.

A current Louisiana fourth grade GLE for reading and responding includes identifying a variety of story elements, including first and third person points of view.

In a common core classroom, the same class would focus on craft and structure of literature and being able to compare and contrast the point of view from which different stories are narrated, including the difference between first and third person narrations.

Wilson said new assessments and comprehensive curriculum for ELA and mathematics under the common core standards will be phased in over several years.

In the 2012 and 2013 school year, kindergarten and first grade would go straight into common core standards, while second grade through high school levels would be in a transitional period. Pre-kindergarten would remain on the same curriculum.

From there, changes continue to move up the ladder with full implementation in pre-kindergarten through high school by the 2014 to 2015 school year.

While most board members and Wilson agreed with the method of focusing in on certain subjects instead of hitting a broad spectrum of topics, many voiced concerns at the pace and uncertainty at which the common core bus was moving.

“We’re kind of proceeding with caution toward everything at this point,” Wilson said. “There are changes happening constantly to these, so I’m not sure what I’m telling you today, will be the same thing tomorrow.”

Apart from the final completion date, the state issues other timelines and deadlines the parish must meet, including informational meetings for parents that Wilson said will be scheduled sometime this month.

With a 10-year, 25-mill property tax on the upcoming election ballot, Director of Business Affairs Tom O’Neal gave another presentation highlighting several school district projects completed over the past 10 years.

The tax, which is dedicated to the general operations of the school system, generates approximately $2.9 million annually and is a renewal of the same tax already in place.

O’Neal said he wanted to stress the importance to Concordians that this is not a new tax and will not raise their taxes.

The tax dollars are spent on salaries, benefits, curriculum and instruction needs and supports facility improvement programs.

The renewal will be on the April 21 ballot.

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