State education officials: We’re sticking with Common Core

As the political debate swirls in some statehouses over the Common Core math and reading standards, most state education officials responsible for implementing the new K-12 standards are confident that their states will stick with the program, according to a survey released Wednesday.

The survey, by the nonpartisan Center for Education Policy at George Washington University, measured opinions of 40 of the 45 states and the District of Columbia that have fully adopted the standards, as well as Minnesota, which accepted the reading standards but not the math.

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Written by governors and state education officials in both parties and largely funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Common Core standards are designed so that students from kindergarten through 12th grade acquire the same skills and knowledge in reading and math, regardless of where they live. Historically, academic standards vary widely among states, and that patchwork nature has been partly blamed for mediocre rankings of U.S. students in international comparisons.

The Common Core standards do not dictate curriculum, allowing states to decide what to teach. Participating states have been rolling out the standards at different paces but all are expected to have them in place by the 2014-2015 school year.

In recent months, the standards have been attacked by conservatives and tea party activists, who say they amount to a federal intrusion into local school systems. They are also under fire from some progressives, who don’t like standardized tests and are uncomfortable with the role of the Gates Foundation. And some academics have criticized the reading standards as too weak.

Some states, including Georgia and Oklahoma, have bristled at the costs of new tests linked to the Common Core standards and have announced that they will keep the standards but will write their own assessments.

But as controversy continues, state officials surveyed between February and May said they were confident that their states will stay the course. Officials in 37 of the states surveyed said it was “unlikely” that their state would “reverse, limit or change its decision” to adopt the standards, according to the survey.

In only one state — not identified in the study — did officials say their state was “somewhat likely” to change its mind about Common Core.

“We found that, while there might be resistance to the Common Core, it isn’t coming from state education agencies,” said CEP Executive Director Maria Ferguson. “State leaders are more focused on finding resources and guidance to carry out the demanding steps required for full implementation.”

While critics have argued that the Obama administration “coerced” states to adopt the Common Core standards by making that a prerequisite to compete for some federal grants, only two states said they did not want federal help with implementing the standards, according to the survey.

At least 30 states said they would like federal help, including more money, to help them carry out the new standards.

 
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