It’s one thing to critique the Common Core State Standards. It’s another thing entirely to do what the Oklahoma legislature has done: pass a bill that not only stops schools from using the standards but also insists that new state standards are carefully compared to the Core to make sure there is no resemblance. That’s part of a bill known as HB 3399, which is now in the hands of Gov. Mary Fallin, who has this week to decide whether to sign it or kill it — either by vetoing it or or not signing it into law.
Fallin is in a complicated position in regards to the Common Core. She is the chair of the National Governors Association, one of the organizations behind the development of the Core. Last December, amid growing concerns among conservatives that the Core constituted a federal takeover of local education, Fallin issued an executive order supporting the Common Core standards, which in Oklahoma were being called the Oklahoma State Standards, and saying that there would be no federal intrusion.
Oklahoma had signed onto PARCC, one of the two state-led consortia developing new Core-aligned standardized tests with some $360 million in federal money. But last year the state said it would not use the tests because officials had cost concerns and feared it would be impossible to get public schools technologically ready by the 2015-16 school year to take the computer-given exams.
Forty-five states and the District of Columbia adopted the math and English Language Arts Common Core standards, with the support of the Obama administration, though some are now rethinking their commitment in the face of growing opposition from different parts of the political spectrum. Many critics are upset with the way the Core has been implemented and how aligned tests have been administered. The far right-wing has taken a position that the Core amounts to a federal takeover, thinking that drove the Oklahoma bill through the legislature. Indiana has officially pulled out, while some other states have renamed the Core and added some material.
If Fallin signs the bill, Oklahoma schools would revert to standards that had been used before the state Board of Education adopted the Core in 2010. Then, new state math and English/Language Arts standards would be written and approved, and a careful comparison with the Core would be undertaken. The bill even details how the comparison should be done:
The State Board of Education shall compare the standards in the areas of:
a. effective preparation for active citizenship and postsecondary education or the workforce,
b. subject matter content,
c. sequencing of subject matter content and relationship to measurement of student performance and the
application of subject matter standards,
d. developmental appropriateness of grade-level expectations, academic content and instructional rigor,
e. clarity for educators and parents,
f. exemplars tied to the standards,
g. measurability of student proficiency in the subject matter,
i. development of critical thinking skills, and
j. demonstration of application of acquired knowledge and skills.
Upon completion of the comparison of the English Language Arts and Mathematics subject matter standards, the State Board of Education shall submit to the Governor, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives and the Minority Leader of the Senate a report outlining the results of the comparison of the standards.
The Oklahoman newspaper quoted Steven Crawford, executive director of the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration, as predicting that “chaos” would ensue if the Core is rescinded. One middle school math teacher, Heather Sparks, Oklahoma’s 2009 Teacher of the Year, was quoted as saying:
“For next year, we’ve already written our curriculum map and the pacing guides for the Common Core standards. It’s kind of disheartening. If these are repealed, we’ll have to go backward.”