Amy Deslattes, instructional strategist at Lafayette High School and Lafayette Parish's common core spokesperson, spoke with KPEL's Nathan Pike last night to address concerns about the new education standards.

The biggest area of confusion, Deslattes explained, is the difference between standards and curriculum.

Common core refers to a set of standards students are now held to nationally, Deslattes said, but it's up to each individual district to determine how educators will implement the curriculum to meet these standards.

Deslattes said the shift signifies a change in delivery. Whereas the prior curriculum was implemented statewide, common core standards give each district — and in many cases, each teacher — more autonomy in developing their curriculum.

"In the past, (Louisiana schools taught) under the comprehensive curriculum, which was designed by teachers and state department staff, and it was pretty much a pre-scripted curriculum so that all schools across the state would be on the same thing and within the same unit of instruction. We've just realized that that was not meeting the needs of the students in our classroom. So the state has adopted the common core standards, and they have given some advice and some guidance to districts and to teachers to make sure that they are implementing the standards in a rigorous way. But the ultimate decision — as far as curriculum and text — is left up to the districts, then in some districts, it's even left completely up to the teachers. It's the district's choice as to how they are going to address curriculum in Lafayette Parish."

After a worksheet administered to Vermilion Parish fourth-graders caused a stir last week because it used urban slang, the common core discussion has gotten heated and raised concern from parents statewide. Some parents have a rally planned in Baton Rouge Saturday, and even Gov. Bobby Jindal has voiced concerns about the standards after La. Rep. Cameron Henry, R-New Orleans, urged the governor to withdraw from common core.

Louisiana adopted common core in 2010, and Deslattes said teachers wrote a transitional comprehensive curriculum in the years following, but they weren't making "the instructional shifts in their practice." Because the PARCC exam will be implemented for the 2014-2015 school year, Deslattes said it was important to be sure those changes were made this year in preparation.

"Schools will be assessed based on the results of those tests, so it was important for us to let this year kind of be the year with training wheels for common core, so that we can work out some of those kinks and next year. When it's (time for) high-stakes testing, we're going to be ready for it, and we're gonna know where we need to adjust our instruction."

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness of College and Careers received a $186 million Race to the Top grant to create an assessment system aligned with common core standards. The two-portion exam comprises a performance-based assessment and an end-of-year assessment focusing on english/language arts and mathematics.

Deslattes also noted portions of the mathematics assessments are being developed by two mathematicians at LSU's Cain Center, who are working with 130 experts nationwide and in conjunction with the Engage New York curriculum, which is also operating under a Race to the Top grant.

Ultimately, Deslattes said, educators are working to bridge the gap between the old curriculum and the new higher-level common core standards.

"Over the course of the past 30 or 40 years, we've kind of come to the point where we're teaching to the lowest common denominator in our classes; and if that happens year after year after year, eventually we begin to lower our standards in what we expect that students are able to learn. And when we have students come from other countries who are three and four years ahead of our students, we realize that it's not that our students are too dumb to learn the information, it's that we haven't set them up for that success. So it is going to take a few years for us to adjust all of the gaps."

To listen to common core spokesperson Amy Deslattes's interview on "Your Afternoon Drive Home," CLICK BELOW:

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