A District-Level Effort to Replace the Common Core State Standards

By Andrew Ujifusa — July 08, 2014 2 min read
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What happens when a state sticks with the Common Core State Standards, but a district in that state decides to develop new content standards?

Unlike in many other states, districts in New Hampshire are not required to use the common core (see the bottom of page 2 of the document from the state education department). If they choose, districts can pick their own content standards. But if that sounds like a recipe for dozens of distinct standards in New Hampshire, remember that there’s a state assessment that must be aligned to the standards adopted by the state. So there’s a very strong disincentive for districts to deviate from the standards that they know students will be tested on every spring. New Hampshire plans to administer the Smarter Balanced tests next year.

But following some opposition to the common core at the local level, Manchester school district officials have decided to develop their own standards in place of the common core, and a draft set of these new standards is due to be presented at a July 8 meeting. As the Union-Leader newspaper reports, the development teams behind the standards actually relied heavily on the common core— for example, the common core is a source for all the proposed math standards for high school.

The district does list a variety of sources that were consulted as the draft Manchester standards were developed, including the new Indiana standards designed to replace the common core; a 2006 joint committee on standards for New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont; and Virginia standards created in 2011. Here’s an example of where the district has attributed its draft standard for high school English/language arts to more than one source:

There are some changes like the addition in 3rd grade language arts that a student write “legibly in cursive,” as well as a new requirement for students to demonstrate a progression in phonics from kindergarten through 3rd grade. And the draft also demonstrates how the standards can be put differently into more “friendly language.” For example, the common-core standard in 3rd grade English/language arts calling for students to be able to “distinguish the literal and nonliteral meanings of words and phrases in contexts (e.g., take steps)” becomes “I can understand figurative language” in the proposed standards.

But in general, the Manchester standards do bear a strong resemblance to the common core.

At the state level, although anti-common core legislation was filed this year in the Granite State, the bill died. In fact, New Hampshire was one of the first states to consider legislation opposing the common standards back in 2011.

One other note—I mentioned near the top that the state assessment naturally puts pressure on districts to simply use the standards adopted by the state board. The Union-Leader points out that while the state initially promised Manchester schools that they would get a waiver from the state test, state K-12 leaders subsequently told the district it wouldn’t be getting such a waiver after all.

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