ALMOST AS soon as Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) issued an executive order that he said would withdraw his state from the Common Core education standards, his education chief disagreed. “The state will continue to implement the Common Core standards,” said John White, Louisiana’s education superintendent. “We are not willing to subject our children to last-minute changes to throw our system into educational chaos.”
Whether Louisiana will stick with the national educational standards is not certain. What’s clearer is that Mr. Jindal’s about-face says more about him than about any deficiency in the standards.
The Common Core State Standards dictate what students should know by the end of each grade, establishing consistent expectations across states. They do not prescribe a curriculum. With bipartisan support, Louisiana and 39 other states agreed to the standards in 2010, with five more following in the next two years. But recently, an odd coalition between the tea party and teachers unions has ramped up opposition, causing Indiana, Oklahoma and South Carolina to drop out.
Louisiana adopted the Common Core standards in 2010 and worked toward full implementation by 2014-15. The initiative was on the right track, with Mr. Jindal’s staunch support. The Common Core standards “will raise expectations for every child,” he said in 2012.
Late last year, as Common Core critics emerged, Mr. Jindal, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, began raising “concerns.” “Let’s face it,” he said last month. “Centralized planning didn’t work in Russia, it’s not working with our health care system and it won’t work in education.” Last week, he completed his reversal on the heels of a fundraising visit to South Carolina, saying he wants state officials to develop “Louisiana standards and Louisiana tests for Louisiana students.”
How are those Louisiana standards working out so far? Louisiana’s fourth-graders rank 49th among the states in math proficiency. Eighth-graders rank 48th. Meanwhile, Tennessee and Washington, D.C., began raising standards in 2010 and now lead the country in reading and math score gains. In 1993, Massachusetts reformed its school system, placing rigorous standards front and center. It is now first in many education rankings.
The pre-flip-flop Mr. Jindal understood that Common Core would give a Louisiana diploma credibility. Employers would know what skills state graduates possessed. Nationally accepted standards would benefit the 36 million Americans who relocate in a year, including military families who frequently move across state lines. We hope other state officials can keep Louisiana children from falling victim to Mr. Jindal’s political ambition.