(The Center Square) – Louisiana Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley told state lawmakers Monday parents and interested residents have until Oct. 31 to submit input about newly proposed K-12 social studies standards.
Brumley was updating members of the House Committee on Education on the progress of the public education issue, which has included widespread concern among parents about the potential inclusion of critical race theory and related topics.
Other interests involve greater inclusion of people from diverse backgrounds and raising the bar regarding student performance.
Monday’s meeting, however, was restricted to discussing the process of adopting the social studies standards, not the actual curriculum. Committee vice chair Rep. Mark Wright, R-Covington, called the meeting a process “oversight hearing” that would not end in a vote.
When asked whether he was satisfied with the rate of public participation since the Louisiana Department of Education launched its online comment portal Oct. 1, Brumley responded: “I think the more feedback the better.”
Rep. Tammy Phelps, D-Shreveport, asked how the department was letting parents know about the 30-day period, after which the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) will hold a vote in December.
“When we talk about public participation, how are we reaching out? Because an average parent doesn’t know it’s social studies review time?” Phelps said.
“That’s difficult,” Brumley replied, though a slide from the DOE’s committee presentation labeled “Public Comment Promotion” lists several outreach efforts, including an Oct. 4 news release, portal links provided to lawmakers, references in department newsletters and social media posts.
A Sept. 30 social media promotion was specifically cited, though as of Monday afternoon the department’s Facebook post showed 101 comments and 233 shares, while the department’s Twitter post had 19 likes, 24 retweets and no comments.
Rep. Rick Edmonds, R-Baton Rouge, asked how the current version of the standards were developed, to which Brumley explained working groups composed mostly of teachers submitted recommendations to a steering committee, and the committee voted Sept. 25 to approve proposed standards.
With respect to the composition of the working groups and steering committee, Edmonds asked whether the "goal of diversity" was achieved insofar as the respective members were representative of the entire state.
“I believe that we did have a level of diversity,” Brumley said. “Beyond that, I think what’s important now is that the diversity of our entire state go in and offer considerations in the public portal.”
Brumley said aside from any curriculum controversies, social studies is the lowest-performing area of Louisiana’s K-12 public education system.
“We talk a lot about reading rates and math rates in Louisiana with 40% on grade-level by the end of 3rd grade," Brumley said. "What we don’t talk about is that only 25% of our students show mastery (proficiency) in social studies content. We think there are reasons for that and it obviously begins with the rigor of the standards.”