Louisiana Says New Textbooks Don’t Align with Common Core Standards

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The Louisiana Department of Education has decided to hold off endorsing new textbooks for a few years because state reviewers could not identify any that adequately reflect the content and skills demanded by the new Common Core State Standards. The decision affects the state’s adoption of K-2 math textbooks and texts for K-5 English/language arts. While it is encouraging to see that Louisiana is serious about vetting textbooks relative to the new, higher standards, the resulting absence of recommended texts means the state must now find other ways to provide teachers with the supports and materials they need to effectively teach to the new standards.

For those states that have adopted the Common Core, the structure and expectations of the new standards are generally very different than states’ current standards. For example, the order in which content is taught has shifted. The kinds of content knowledge and skills students must demonstrate, as well as the level of mastery expected, have changed. These adjustments will help students develop deeper skills and knowledge that build upon what they’ve already learned as they progress through the grades, as opposed to skipping over or repeating material as is often the case now.

Unsurprisingly, creators of curriculum — including textbook publishers — are scrambling to respond to these shifts, but effectively doing so will require more than just tweaking what is currently available. Educators must have curricula and specific resources aligned with the new standards that will help them reassess and revamp their lessons.

But to date, teachers in many schools — including those at De Queen Elementary in Arkansas, a recent winner of the Ed Trust’s Dispelling the Myth Award — have been left to do most of the heavy lifting themselves to ensure they help realize the full potential of the new standards for their students. Much of this duplication of effort within districts and states can be avoided.

Creating high-quality materials at the state level leverages resources and preserves precious district capacity, which can then be focused on training and on consistent implementation of those state materials. In “Instructional Supports: The Missing Piece in State Education Standards,” The Education Trust offers guidance on the best ways states can support our nation’s educators in their efforts to help students meet high academic standards. Examples include comprehensive resource banks with logically sequenced model lesson plans and examples of quality student work for each grade and subject.

To its credit, Louisiana has already taken steps to provide some of these types of high-quality resources to teachers via its well-organized Comprehensive Curriculum website. Given that the state is passing for now on textbooks, making the resources on this website as comprehensive and user-friendly as possible will be essential in ensuring effective teaching to the CCSS. Other CCSS states should prioritize disseminating similar resources to their teachers, whether they develop resources on their own or borrow them from other states and districts at the forefront of such efforts.

— Melissa Tooley