BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana's top school board made modest tweaks Wednesday to its regulations governing the state's shift to tougher testing and educational standards, in response to critics who wanted the standards scrapped altogether.
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted 8-1 to adjust its rules for use of the Common Core, a day after hearing five hours of emotional testimony from supporters and critics of the standards.
"We have attempted to do something ... to say, 'We heard you,'" said board member Connie Bradford, who recommended the changes.
She said the regulation adjustments give people "the opportunity to feel more confidence, to build more trust. We're just giving them validation for their concerns. This is not the end of where we need to go."
Despite the changes, the board held firm to its support for Common Core, which supporters say will improve the level of rigor in public school classrooms and better prepare students for college or careers.
The Common Core is a set of grade-by-grade benchmarks to judge students' knowledge in math, English and reading. Forty-five states have adopted the standards, which will allow states to compare their students' performance. BESE adopted the standards in 2010, and they are being phased into Louisiana classrooms and testing.
The board's adjustments Wednesday to its rules for using the new standards sought to address some of the long list of criticisms lodged about Common Core.
Opponents say Louisiana is shifting to a nationalized education system, teaching materials that are inappropriate and allowing improper sharing of sensitive student records.
BESE's changes spell out what state education leaders had already said was policy: local school districts can choose their own instructional materials and textbooks to teach to the standards and aren't required to use any items suggested by federal or state agencies.
Added to the regulations was a new provision allowing parents to review materials to be used in their children's classes. Parents of high school English students can opt their children out of reading materials that they deem inappropriate.
The education board also tightened rules governing the use of student data.
"We need to have a customized approach to how we implement Common Core," said board member Jim Garvey, a supporter of the regulation changes. Garvey represents St. Tammany Parish, which has seen some of the loudest criticism of the shift to the new standards.
Gov. Bobby Jindal has supported the Common Core. But as criticism has grown from tea party supporters, Jindal asked BESE to determine if the state needs to change course. In a statement, he said Wednesday's adjustments "are a good step forward."
"It's good for this debate to continue," the Republican governor said.
Board member Lottie Beebe, superintendent of St. Martin Parish public schools, voted against the regulation changes. She said too little has been done to help districts and teachers adjust to the new, tougher requirements.
Scott Richard, executive director of the Louisiana School Boards Association, echoed similar concerns.
"You're hearing a lot of frustration across the state about the lack of support and a scant implementation program for local school districts," he said. "Here again, we're just telling local school districts, 'You just go ahead and do what you need to do.'"
Board member Carolyn Hill abstained from the vote, saying she wasn't sure BESE followed the proper legal procedures for notifying the public that it would consider changes to the Common Core regulations.