Vitter abandoning Common Core

Dec. 3
Times-Picayune, New Orleans, Louisiana, on Vitter abandoning Common Core:
U.S. Sen. David Vitter was right in August to stand up for Common Core academic standards in Louisiana. Now it’s December, four months closer to his 2015 gubernatorial run, and he’s backing away. What a disappointment.
Sen. Vitter had a chance to show leadership on this issue and calm people who are wrongly fearful of federal intrusion in Louisiana schools. Instead, he is flip-flopping. He has joined Gov. Bobby Jindal’s misguided opposition to Common Core standards, which would allow Louisiana students to be compared to their peers nationally in reading, writing and math.
In August, Sen. Vitter criticized the governor’s stance: “I support the strong standards Louisiana now has in place and think Governor Jindal’s attempt to start from scratch right before the new school year is very disruptive,” the senator said in a statement.
Yes, the governor has been disruptive. He was an enthusiastic supporter of Common Core standards until he realized that position wasn’t popular with the conservative voters he is trying to woo for a presidential campaign. Then he started trying to force the state Board of Elementary & Secondary Education to drop Common Core.
Sen. Vitter, a Republican and a staunch conservative, offered a refreshing counterpoint to Gov. Jindal’s political pandering.
But this week, the senator backtracked: “After listening to literally thousands of parents, teachers, and others since then, I don’t believe that we can achieve that Louisiana control, buy-in, and success I’m committed to if we stay in Common Core. Instead, I think we should get out of Common Core ... and establish an equally or more rigorous Louisiana system of standards and testing.”
That is a false choice. Louisiana teachers and school administrators have worked for five years to tailor Common Core for our schools. Each school district is crafting its own classroom approach.
The standards are not an Obama administration mandate. The National Governors Association initiated them out of concern that students weren’t being prepared properly for higher education or for work.
The Louisiana Association for Business and Industry is a strong proponent of Common Core. Business leaders see the higher standards as a key to the state’s economic prosperity and to better opportunities for residents.
Sen. Vitter is essentially arguing now for Louisiana children to be isolated academically. That is not the way to ensure they can compete for the best jobs.
The senator said Monday that the Common Core standards “are causing deep frustration and worse in many classrooms and homes.”
Change often causes frustration and anxiety. That was the case when Louisiana created its own accountability standards in the late 1990s and required fourth- and eighth-graders to pass a test before promotion.
State schools Superintendent John White, who has fought Gov. Jindal’s attempts to derail Common Core standards, doesn’t want to see the state “throw away” years of work.
“Raising expectations is hard work,” Mr. White said Monday. “Louisiana educators have been working on raising expectations for five years, and the hard work is starting to pay off. We have more A-rated schools, more students with college-level ACT scores and more seniors passing AP tests.”
A group of teachers on a conference call Monday expressed dismay over Sen. Vitter’s reversal on Common Core, The Advertiser in Lafayette reported.
“I think the fear is change,” said Nicole Nelson, a Caddo Parish elementary teacher. “I think we’re on the right track, and we have to continue. It’s going to take time, but I’ve seen what students can do when teachers use these standards. I’ve seen a new level of collaboration among teachers. It’s just change that we’re scared of, and we’re kind of confusing curriculum with standards.”
What is needed to get through those anxieties is leadership. Mr. White is providing it. So are the BESE members who have refused to buckle under pressure from Gov. Jindal to scrap Common Core.
It seemed that Sen. Vitter was going to be a leader on this issue as well. Unfortunately, he took a detour Monday. If he truly wants the best for Louisiana students — and we trust that he does — he will change his mind and back Common Core.
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