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Concordia Parish School Board requests more time to transition to Common Core standards

VIDALIA — The Concordia Parish School Board adopted a resolution Thursday asking the state of Louisiana for more time to transition to the new Common Core standards.

Common Core standards are being implemented across 45 states, and aim to introduce more rigorous standards of education through cross-curricular learning.

But with the new level of rigor expected with the new standards, the school district is asking for a three-year extension to transition without penalty to the district, students or teachers, Superintendent Paul Nelson said.

In the first years of implementation, schools and students are going to have to deal with knowledge gaps, Secondary Education Director Rhonda Wilson said.

“If the standards are pushing Algebra 1 down into eighth grade, that means the eighth graders haven’t had eighth grade math,” she said.

Cindy Smith, the district’s testing coordinator and director of elementary education, said the new standards require teachers to reorient how they ask test questions and even how they present materials.

And resources from the state have not come as quickly as could be hoped, she said.

One example is how the state recently announced it had provided 1,000 new sample questions for teachers to reference for their various subjects, Smith said.

“They had 1,000 questions added, but when you divide that by four grades, divide it again by four areas of focus and divide it again by 30 common core standards, that’s not actually much help,” she said.

Nelson said one way the standards have changed would be not to ask a third grader what is the state capital, but why Baton Rouge is a good location for the state capital, requiring students not only to know the location of the capital, but geography and political history as well.

“The test is more difficult than it has ever been before, and the expectations are higher,” he said.

Smith said the district started professional development for teachers in August, and based on classroom observations last week teachers are becoming more comfortable with the new approach.

The district has identified students who might need intervention or extra help, and high school classrooms have been provided with mock ACT tests — the ACT scores of students will factor into school performance scores for high schools — so students will be able to review what questions they missed and learn how and why those questions were missed.

“It is a tough time in the field of education, but we are doing the best we can,” Wilson said.