Common-Core News Roundup From Ky. and N.C., Plus an Ariz. Veto

By Andrew Ujifusa — April 25, 2014 3 min read
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Over the last several days, there have been a few interesting developments connected, or at least tangentially related, to the Common Core State Standards. Let’s do a quick review:

• On April 19, Kentucky Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday announced that the state would allow members of the public to make suggestions to alter the common-core standards in the state. According to the Associated Press, the move to gather suggestions about the standards will be called the “Kentucky Core Academic Standards Challenge.” Teachers, higher education professionals, and business leaders, in turn, will use the input to make revisions to the standards.

If that sounds familiar, it’s roughly the same approach that Florida took recently when it used thousands of public comments to make several additions to both the English/language arts and math standards. Both moves are accounted for in the “15 percent rule” that allows states to add standards to the common core.

Holliday told the AP that the new “Standards Challenge” is not a reaction to the political hub-bub around the standards. And it’s certainly not any kind of death knell for the common core in the state. But remember that Kentucky was the first state to officially adopt the standards. It administered the first common-core aligned test back in 2012. And the way Kentucky has implemented common core has gotten praise from U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. So it’s certainly striking that the state is considering “revisions” (or additions at least) to the standards at this stage.

• Not too far away from Kentucky, a North Carolina legislative panel has said the state should drop the common core. That potentially sets up a conflict between some legislators and Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican who likes the standards—the business community in the state is on McCrory’s side as well. (The legislature is controlled by the GOP.)

If you’re looking for parallels between this situation and Florida, you can find them in comments from McCrory’s education consigliere, Eric Guckian, who told the AP: “We welcome the opportunity to improve upon these standards, but any attempt to lower them is not an acceptable option.” And if you’re looking for another interstate parallel, remember Tennessee, where Republican lawmakers agitated against the standards and where Gov. Bill Haslam, a Repubican, supported them.

The Tennessee situation ultimately has led to the legislature approving one-year delay in the state’s administering of common-core aligned tests from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, with the possibility that Tennessee ultimately won’t use the test at all. Could a similar compromise in North Carolina lead to the state dumping the tests from Smarter Balanced? Or will nothing change about the standards or tests?

At an event about common-core implementation and politics hosted by the Council of Chief State School Officers earlier this week, North Carolina Superintendent June Atkinson (D) talked about how in light of common-core opposition in the state (which she said was often ignorant about the standards themselves), she wished the department had more actively engaged parents and other community members through social media over the last few years. It will be interesting to see if her regret intensifies over the coming weeks.

• Finally, here’s a development that’s not directly about the common core but is clearly related: Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, has vetoed a bill that would have prevented the state from adopting any federally mandated standards or teaching approaches. Brewer said that since the state’s standards, the common core, didn’t come from and weren’t mandated by Washington, the legislation was redundant.

A previous proposal from state Sen. Al Melvin, a Republican, to require the state to dump the common core didn’t make it out of the legislature, and this bill that reached Brewer’s desk was the sole survival of anti-common-core agitation efforts by GOP lawmakers in the state, the AP reported.

A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.