Absences may be linked to Common Core protest

St. Mary Parish Superintendent of Schools Donald Aguillard

I suspect we are likely seeing a 1 percent increase in absences solely as a protest to Common Core.
By JEAN L. KAESS jkaess@daily-review.com

St. Mary Parish public school absences rose 3 percent and some students may be out due to a national walk-out against the new Common Core educational standards.

Superintendent Donald Aguillard said attendance varies by 1 to 2 percent daily under normal circumstances. “I suspect we are likely seeing a 1 percent increase in absences solely as a protest to Common Core,” he said.

The 1 percent equates to about 95 students in this parish.

Schools with the largest increase in percentage absent today versus one week ago were Berwick High with an 8.13 percent increase and Centerville High with an 8.08 percent increase. Other schools with over three percent increase in absences include M.E. Norman, 7.82 percent; Berwick Elementary, 5.76 percent; LaGrange Elementary, 5.6 percent; J.B. Maitland, 5.05 percent; Berwick Junior High, 4.48 percent; M.D. Shannon, 4.22 percent; Raintree Elementary, 3.79 percent; Patterson Junior High, 3.54 percent; and Bayou Vista Elementary, 3.37 percent.

Opponents of Common Core — which has been adopted in all but five states — say objectionable material, data mining and dropping grades are what Common Core is about.

Proponents say Common Core is necessary for producing a globally-competitive, educated work force; a clear progression of stricter standards from kindergarten through graduation; and standardized educational practices across the country.

In Louisiana, full implementation of Common Core is set for the 2014-15 school year. The standards were adopted in 2010.

Aguillard said that St. Mary is not using any Engage New York material other than in a few selected elementary classrooms using the math materials.

“We currently are using essentially the same instructional materials as in prior years with the exception of a new elementary basal reading text for elementary grades. District instructional personnel, along with principals, curriculum facilitators and classroom teachers are carefully researching other resources to select appropriate materials to address heightened standards,” Aguillard said.

Common Core is a set of standards for ELA and math. It is not a curriculum.

“Districts like St. Mary must find appropriate instructional materials in order to address the standards. Thus, we are working aggressively to ensure that our curriculum choices are appropriate for our district,” Aguillard said.

Aguillard said all evidence predicts that proficiency rates will drop once students begin taking the more difficult PARCC test in response to Common Core curriculum.

“In a nutshell, proficiency will move from ‘basic’ to ‘mastery’ for students. Louisiana is committed to working to transition to the higher bar through plans set to be presented by Superintendent John White at the December Board of Elementary and Secondary Education meeting. Specific transition plans for fourth and eighth grade have not yet been shared by John White,” Aguillard said.

Parental comments on The Daily Review’s Facebook page ran the gamut from supporters of the walkout to those who thought it would serve no purpose other than to make students have to play catch-up in the classroom or outright opposing the protest.

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