New initiatives, standards and applications are being put in place in an effort to better prepare Louisiana students for higher education and the future work force. Early Childhood Network pilots and Common Core are taking center stage, and White‘s visit was an attempt to better understand how these programs are being received when put into practice.
The visit saw White at Gonzales Primary School, where he met to discuss new pilot programs in early learning and daycare facilities. Essentially, the new program allows for the letter grading of centers and schools receiving state funding. The assessment is broken into two categories: Classroom, consisting of the teacher and learning environment, and TS Goal, which is a ranking of the child’s performance.
Jodi Loar with Color Wheel Learning Center, a participant in the program, has been pleased with what she’s seen so far.
“It’s been great,” she said. “It allows for a real first-hand approach to teaching. Teachers are assessed based on classroom organization, instructional support and also the emotional support they give to the children in their classes. I think it’s a wonderful way for the children from an early age to learn more effectively.”
The program, White said, is possible due to a 2012 act of legislation whereby BESE would unify early childhood education, and Ascension Parish is paving the way for other parishes around the state to begin the program by serving as a pilot area.
“It essentially brought head-start into early childhood learning,” said White. “Ascension’s commitment serves as a role model to the rest of the state. We look to you to see how it’s going, and early indicators say it works.”
Teachers and center owners were asked for their feedback on the new pilot program. Among the successes were that the program expands on a teacher’s education by allowing for personal and professional growth training, the standards are easy to follow and the training given by the state has been beneficial.
“That’s great to hear,” said White. “The success of these projects depends on you. We can only improve by learning from your feedback. You’re the ones proving this can be successful.”
Next on White’s visit was a trip to St. Amant High School, where he met with principals, school board officials and teachers from across the area. The subject of Common Core was quick to take the spotlight.
“You guys have been living this for years,” said White as he addressed those in attendance. “I feel it’s important to get a feel for how things are going on the ground. Our best teachers have been doing this for years.”
The issue of Common Core has been making the rounds on social media sites, with many parents upset by what they feel is an intrusive, unnecessary change to education.
White addressed the negativity surrounding Common Core.
“It’s not a curriculum,” he said, “and I believe that’s one of the largest misconceptions. Common Core is a set of standards, a framework that will provide different opportunities for thinking.”
Teachers rallied together in support of Common Core, highlighting the fact that many parents simply don’t understand the new standards and are worried about what they mean. They felt better support in training to help answer parent questions should be coming from the state. Currently, training for Common Core can be found on websites from other states involved in the program, but the teachers felt a unified system of training, perhaps with examples of best practice would be more beneficial.
“I get that it can be de-motivating if you don’t understand what it is you’re meant to be doing,” said White. “I’m hearing what it is you’re all saying and we need to make sure you have access to what you need.”
Many in attendance felt that the Common Core standards bring dignity to the classroom and the teachers in attendance felt invigorated by the standards and have a sense of pride about the framework. They are, though, upset about the panic Common Core seems to have created.
The concept of using the media to highlight teachers using Common Core effectively was posed, and White felt it would be a strategic move in bridging the gap between teachers and parents still lacking an understanding of the standards.
“I think that’s a great idea,” he said. “There’s too much negativity surrounding Common Core. The time is right for the promotion of all that is positive about the standards.”