Pa. Gov. Corbett Urges Review as Part of Effort to ‘Roll Back’ Common Core

By Andrew Ujifusa — September 08, 2014 3 min read
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Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett has released a somewhat ambiguous statement about the future of the Common Core State Standards in that state, saying he has asked for a “continued public review” of the standards as part of the “final phase” of a three-year process to “roll back” the standards in the Keystone State.

In his Sept. 8 statement, Corbett said that he has asked his state K-12 chief, Carolyn Dumaresq, to ask the state Board of Education to hold hearings immediately on the state’s academic standards. The goal, he said, is to ensure that Pennsylvania begins new academic standards with the help of national experts, teachers, and parents.

“I am now asking the State Board to continue the process we began at the start of my term and to ensure that any final influence of the national Common Core State Standards is eradicated from Pennsylvania,” Corbett said in the statement.

Corbett, a Republican who took office in 2011, also says that under his leadership, the state school board has, in fact, been working to remove the common standards, which were adopted in July 2010 under then-Gov. Ed Rendell, a Democrat.

So what’s going on here?

Since the state school board adopted the common core over four years ago, Pennsylvania K-12 leaders have decided “to craft a set of Pennsylvania (PA) Core Standards tailored to meet our state-specific needs in English/Language Arts and Mathematics,” as the state education department says. These Pennsylvania Core Standards were adopted by the state school board a year ago and went into effect last March. As the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette put it, “much of the common core remains,” and the department states that the Pennsylvania Core Standards that were developed “mirror the academic rigor” of the common standards.

Essentially, these E/LA and math standards are the state’s version of the common core, with some revisions approved by the state. Remember, the guidelines of the common core initiative say that states have flexibility to make changes to up to15 percent of the common core itself and still say that they are using the common core.

Florida is another state to have made adjustments to the standards and, like Pennsylvania, is broadly considered a “common core state.” That’s in contrast to a state like Oklahoma, which has unambgiously dumped the standards and reverted to its prior ones. In his statement, Corbett is casting the Pennsylvania state board actions a year ago as a definitive step away from the common core and , although it’s unclear who else views it that way.

In August, state GOP Rep. Gordon Denlinger announced that he had introduced a bill to repeal the “PA Core/Common Core standards” in the state, saying that the revised standards were still problematic and represented the “federalization” of state public schools.

Corbett correctly points out that the state has decided not to use an assessment from one of two federally funded consortia designing common-core tests. But will his call for yet another round of standards review meet with any success? That remains to be seen, particularly since Corbett is up for re-election this year and is trailing Democrat nominee Tom Wolf in the polls by a notable margin.

UPDATE: Not long after Corbett’s announcement, the Pennsylvania House Republican Caucus released a statement from Reps. Ryan Aument and Seth Grove criticizing Corbett’s announcement. The two state representatives said they were “puzzled by the governor’s decision to muddle implementation” of the Pennsylvania Core Standards that were created on Corbett’s watch.

Aument and Grove stressed that one of the ideas behind the Pennsylvania Core Standards was to protect local control over curriculum and ensure state oversight over school standards.

“We are extremely disappointed the Corbett administration is considering reversing its own policy and opting to further convolute public understanding of our statewide academic standards. As a result, we have lost total confidence in this administration’s ability to manage implementation of these state-specific academic standards,” they said.

Aument and Grove said they were asking the House education committee chairman, Rep. Paul Clymer, to hold a review of how the Pennsylvania Core Standards were developed.

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