NEW ORLEANS -- Even though they've been around for several years now, the increasing implementation of the nation's Common Core standards for education is making it a red-hot controversy.
The controversy includes parents of kids in Catholic schools in New Orleans. They are implementing the public Common Core standards for education.
“There's a lot of misinformation. There’s a lot of questions out there: What is this all about? What parents have to understand is that in the school, there is not some time of government, kind of federal or state control,” said Chad Howat, the principal of St. Clement of Rome Catholic school.
“The curriculum shift is very real in terms of the ratcheting up the level of challenge,” said UNO Assistant Professor of Education Brian Beabout.
Common Core is a new set of benchmarks standardized across the country that students should be able to meet at each grade level.
Beabout said, like much of the education reform in recent decades, it’s an attempt to make America's education more competitive worldwide. How schools meet those benchmarks, the curriculum, is up to them.
“It also depends on who the teacher is. It depends on who their supervisor is and how much leeway is given in implementation,” Beabout said.
But some parents said the standards require students to meet certain standards that schools then have to teach, like “Singapore math,” for example.
“If your child gets the concept of traditional division or traditional multiplication, it's hard to move on because we're digging deeper and deeper and learning all these gazillion ways to do multiplication and division,” said Jessica Couret, a Catholic school parent who is part of a group opposing the implementation of the standards.
Some of the parents at New Orleans' Catholic schools said Tuesday they felt blind-sided by the change when they started to see drastically different homework come home with their kids.
They didn't expect to see the Common Core changes in private schools. The Archdiocese of New Orleans doesn't have to adopt the new standards. They're choosing to.
“Each school can adapt their standards to meet their needs. The most important thing is that we're teaching children how to think. We're teaching children to dig deep into their answers and look at why,” said Superintendent of Catholic Schools Jan Lancaster.
But some parents, including Couret, say they feel Common Core is bringing the level of teaching down to the lowest common denominator.
“Some call it rigorous. I call it redundant,” she said.
School leaders maintain they will continue to teach above the standards with individual schools having the freedom to adapt how they see fit.
Opponents of the standards, both for public and private schools, are holding a rally on Saturday, September 28 at the Louisiana Department of Education in Baton Rouge to try and get Louisiana to opt out of it.
CLARIFICATION: The Common Core standards are a set of standards for education that have become national in scope because of the large number of states that have adopted them. They are not the product of a US Government mandate. They are "federal" standards in that they are aimed at being a national set of standards for education.