Representatives with the St. Martin Parish School System, along with Louisiana Sen. Fred Mills, R-St. Martinville, spoke out against Common Core initiatives yesterday, citing teacher shortages and less-than-average performance evaluations as evidence the reforms are setting up traditional public school systems to fail.

“We know that if we’re going to impact student achievement, we need the quality teachers in the classroom,” said St. Martin Parish School Board Superintendent Lottie Beebe. “But many of our quality teachers are leaving because of the (Common Core) reform initiatives, particularly Compass.”

Beebe said St. Martin Parish lost more than 65 teachers this year after Louisiana implemented Compass, the state’s educator-evaluation system that measures teacher performance half on student scores and half on “observations by principals or trained designees using the state’s Compass teacher rubric,” according to the Louisiana Department of Education’s website.

“I have my concerns about that, because it is not an educationally sound practice,” said Bonnie Thibodeaux, the St. Martin Parish School Board’s elementary supervisor and supervisor of testing. “There are way too many variables that come into play for a student to be successful.”

Thibodeaux said St. Martin Parish’s prior scores ranked well above the state’s average, but after implementing the new evaluation measures, the scores tanked.

“(Teachers) could lose their certification based on this flawed system,” she added.

William Greig, interim director of curriculum and instruction for the St. Martin Parish School Board, said his parish supports Compass and teacher accountability, but said year-to-year inconsistency in evaluation criteria contributes to its negative reception.

“We’re in favor of accountability. We’re in favor of the tests. We’re in favor of Compass,” he said. “But we want a fair system. And there are some challenges that we are facing because of this. The first challenge that I see is that the criteria for accountability changes every year.”

The group also discussed charter schools. Beebe said she believes Common Core was implemented to aid these schools — most of which operate out of state — and to contribute to “the demise of traditional public education.”

“You’re going to see a decline in student achievement,” Beebe said. “You’re going to see more failures within our traditional systems, and by design, we are going to be blamed as educators not doing our job.”

“They are not just crying wolf,” said Mills.

After Gov. Bobby Jindal implemented the Louisiana Scholarship Program, which uses public funds to provide vouchers to students who wish to attend schools outside of their district, more than 90 percent of New Orleans students attend charter schools.

The U.S. Department of Justice filed suit against the program late last week, citing the vouchers as a violation of desegregation measures long upheld in the New Orleans area.

Locally, the Lafayette Parish School Board deferred a decision last night on Type 1 charter school applications submitted by two separate nonprofit groups.

Kara Meaux, director of federal programs for the St. Martin Parish School Board, and Al Blanchard, director of human capital and operations with St. Martin Parish schools, also participated in the discussion.

To listen to the education discussion in two parts on “Your Afternoon Drive Home,” CLICK BELOW: