Pastorek: Common Core criticism no surprise

Advocate file photo Former Department of Education Superintendent Paul Pastorek speaks in April 2010.
Advocate file photo Former Department of Education Superintendent Paul Pastorek speaks in April 2010.

Former state Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek said Wednesday that he expected criticism of the push for more rigor in public schools, which is called Common Core.

“I am not surprised at all,” Pastorek said.

He compared criticism of Common Core to opposition to high-stakes tests that began in Louisiana in the late 1990s, including LEAP.

“You go back to what we had in ’98 and ’99 when we adopted new standards and it had high stakes,” he said.

Fourth- and eighth-graders had to pass LEAP to move to the fifth and ninth grades.

“We had four lawsuits that were filed,” Pastorek said. “You know, we had protests in the streets.”

“Being an amateur historian, this is nothing new,” Pastorek said. “We have seen this movie before.”

Pastorek made his comments during a 90-minute panel discussion and webinar in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the Brookings Institution.

Common Core is a set of math and English standards created to improve student achievement.

Changes are being phased in at public schools and take full effect for the 2014-15 school year.

Pastorek was superintendent in 2010 when the state adopted the standards without controversy.

Another 44 other states have done so too.

“Being an amateur historian, this is nothing new. We have seen this movie before.” Paul Pastorek, former state superintendent of education

He quit his post in 2011 and is now chief counsel and corporate secretary to the North American Division of the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co.

The education overhaul has sparked sharp criticism in recent weeks.

Gov. Bobby Jindal said in September that he is concerned about a “federalized curriculum,” but also said he backs rigor and high academic standards.

State Rep. Cameron Henry, R-New Orleans, said he plans to file a bill for the 2014 regular legislative session to end Louisiana’s involvement with Common Core.

The issue also has sparked a protest at the state Department of Education, including criticism that the new standards did not get enough public input before they were adopted.

The state’s top school board held a five-hour public hearing on the issue earlier this month, and the House Education Committee is set to discuss Common Core at 1 p.m. Monday.

Pastorek said it is “shocking” that some people say the federal government was the driving force behind Common Core.

He said state superintendents and others were behind the push.

Pastorek, who works in the Washington, D.C. area, said he has heard concerns from relatives in Louisiana about the new rigor.

“I talked to some of my siblings, like sister and sister-in-law,” he said. “They are nervous about this.”

He said those concerns focus on parental worries on whether they will be able to assist their children as they grapple with tougher courses.

“That is not an illegitimate concern,” Pastorek said. “That is a real concern.”

However, he said the standards deserve support.

“It is good for our kids, good for our schools and good for our country,” Pastorek said.