Published Online: June 6, 2014
Published in Print: June 11, 2014, as Okla., S.C. Back Off From Common Core

Days Apart, Two States Opt to Replace Common Core

The political turbulence surrounding the Common Core State Standards intensified in recent weeks as the governors of Oklahoma and South Carolina—less than a week apart—signed legislation requiring their states to adopt new standards replacing the common core, and legislators in North Carolina advanced bills to require that state to revise its already-adopted standards.

Last week, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, a Republican who previously had expressed strong support for the common core, signed legislation requiring that the state school board adopt new English/language arts and math standards by August 2016, and that they be subject to approval by the state legislature.

She followed South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, also a Republican but a common-core opponent, who signed legislation last month that requires new standards for the 2015-16 academic year.

Oklahoma and South Carolina join Indiana in officially dropping the common core. Indiana adopted new standards earlier this year, although they strongly resembled the common core.

In addition, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, has been sent a bill by the legislature to require the adoption of new standards to replace the common core.

The recent activity, particularly in the case of Gov. Fallin, shows that while the common core remains a second-tier issue for many of its supporters in the political arena, opponents of the initiative have built a passionate campaign against the standards, said Conor P. Williams, a senior researcher at the New America Foundation, a Washington think tank.

“The majority of supporters aren’t going to vote for me because I defended the common core,” Mr. Williams said of current or prospective officeholders.

Gov. Fallin’s decision to sign the bill represents a dramatic about-face from her support for the standards, which are the product of an initiative led by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. After the decisions by Gov. Fallin and Gov. Haley, 43 states and the District of Columbia remain committed to the common core. (Minnesota adopted only the English/language arts standards on the common core.)

About-Face

In a January speech at the National Governors Association, Gov. Fallin said the common standards would give students “the tools they need” to succeed in college and careers. She also defended the standards against charges that they were forced upon states and controlled by the federal government.

“Local educators and school districts will still design the best lesson plans, will choose appropriate textbooks, and will drive student learning,” she said.

But the Oklahoma legislature, which is controlled by Republicans, decided the standards needed to be replaced and passed House Bill 3399. She was lobbied by supporters of the standards, such as the state business community, and by opponents from conservative advocacy groups.

In the Republican Party, “the center of gravity has shifted,” said Frederick M. Hess, the director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington think tank. (Mr. Hess also writes an opinion blog for Education Week.)

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In a statement explaining why she signed the bill, Gov. Fallin said: “Unfortunately, federal overreach has tainted common core. President Obama and Washington bureaucrats have usurped common core in an attempt to influence state education standards.”

She also said the state would develop standards that are “better than common core.”

Although the Oklahoma law doesn’t explicitly ban the common core, lawmakers must approve the new standards by a joint resolution before they can be implemented.

A similar provision exists in South Carolina House Bill 3893, which Gov. Haley signed into law. That measure requires that any new standards not developed by the South Carolina education department be approved by the legislature.

The South Carolina law also prohibits the state from administering the common-core-aligned tests being developed by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, which the state left earlier this year.

The Next Hurdle

Meanwhile, the North Carolina House and Senate both have passed bills that would require a state commission to review the common core and propose changes to the state board.

However, Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, has said efforts to repeal the common core are largely misguided. In a June 5 news article in the Charlotte Observer, the governor said that while some changes to the common core might be appropriate, any plan to “toss the whole thing out with no replacement” would be a mistake.

Mr. Williams, of the New America Foundation, said that for states that decide to leave the common core in favor of their own standards, much will depend on their ability to come up with standards that are better than the common core on the schedules required.

“They’re burdened with a lot of other responsibilities right now,” he said of state education departments. “They don’t have the capacity to stop and take on a really big job like this really quick.”



Vol. 33, Issue 35, Pages 24,26

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