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Arkansas Dismantles the Core

Arkansas has been one of the oldest adopters of Common Core, bringing it into the state July 12, 2010. Taking this involvement a step further, they are also one of the governing members of PARCC, or Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for Colleges and Careers, a collection of states that works to write yearly assessments based on the Core standards. While there has been a growing amount of recent controversy, this southern state has performed the most peaceful coup as they work to find standards that fit their own state.

 

Initial Controversy

Starting in 2010, the state has been slowly transforming its standards to those aligned with the Common Core, having now fully implemented all changes. However, not all individuals were happy about this toward the final stages of implementation. In 2014, legislation was filed trying to block funding for the Core. This failed to get very far.

Then, during Asa Hutchinson’s run for governor in 2014, he stated that, if elected, he would found a task force faced with the responsibility to study they Core’s standards and make recommendations based on what they found. He was indeed elected and, in early 2015, founded a team comprised of 16 people. It actually proved to be a successful venture.

Following this, a bill was proposed in 2015 that would remove Arkansas from PARCC. This failed and the state ran its first statewide PARCC exam that same year. Yet this bill didn’t remain quiet. Instead of giving up completely, it was toned down, merely asking that the committee’s decisions be considered going forward. Interestingly enough, the committee called for the state to not administer PARCC tests but ACT tests instead.

 

Slow Dismantling

As it stands, Arkansas is now fully set on going after the ACT assessments, citing the four hour test as being much better for college preparation determination than the eight hour PARCC. In addition, the committee found that the ACT is also aligned strongly with Common Core standards, making it an ideal replacement.

The overhaul didn’t stop there, though. In fact, the Department of Education decided to appoint their own team of educators to review the standards and make recommendations due by July 1 of this year. These new standards will then drop the Common Core moniker and become one that belongs to the state itself as requested by the governor.

In Arkansas, it would seem that protests against the Core are not loud and boisterous like in other states. Instead, opponents have slowly but surely worked their way into positions of power and have been dismantling it from the inside. First to go was the assessment. Next is the Core itself. However, this hasn’t been bad because the changes have been easy to adapt to. With the Core in place now and only recommendations being made in the future, this upheaval has proven to be healthier for the state’s educational system.

Wyoming keeps pushing for Common Core Success

Ever since the predominantly red state of Wyoming adopted the Common Core standards in June of 2012, it has actually proven to be one of the few Republican states that has found the Core to be a benefit rather than a deterrent. In fact, the state, despite its opponents, actually likes the changes these implementations have wrought over the past three years it has been put into practice.

 

Republican Concern

It really is no surprise that Republicans have shown a strong distaste for the Core. Believed to be a plan by the government to implement federal control of state-run education systems, it’s been a scary prospect for many. However, despite this criticism, the educational and political leaders of the state are doing what they can to take good criticisms and apply them to the current standards so as to make the state’s standards better, something all parents want for their children.

 

The Happy Medium

In order to calm the caustic voice, Wyoming has instigated a review of Common Core scheduled to happen once every five years (with the next slated for 2017). This guarantees that the new standards are being held accountable for doing what they promised to do – prepare children of all backgrounds for successful careers in college and beyond. In addition, the new superintendent worked pragmatically to find such a balance rather than dismissing the Core simply because of her political leanings. To further push her in this direction, it was cited that if the Core were dropped, Wyoming would have to start from scratch for educational standards, an expensive move that would be costly to taxpayers and children alike.

As far as the teachers are concerned, they almost all see the Core as a drastic improvement over previous standards. However, they are frustrated with the continual changes the state keeps applying. These educators are begging for at least three years of steady standards so that they can figure them out before being asked to alter them.

 

Future Implications

Though there are still a few years needed before the state can truly tell if the Core is leading to better grades, there has been an interesting change of thought. Up until now, the ACT has been the standardized tests students have had to take in 11th grade to determine their readiness for college. Every since Common Core came in, this has drastically shifted with teachers saying their new standards only match 70% of those required by the test itself. In fact, these last years’ scores actually fell. To the educators, it’s a clear mismatch because students are being tested with a test that in no way aligns with the current curriculum. In short, it’s unfair and forces the teachers to balance two different sets of standards. While this won’t cause the death of Common Core in Wyoming, it could very well spell the end of required ACT testing.

 

North Dakota’s stance with Common Core

When North Dakota adopted the Common Core on June 20, 2011, it signed up as one of the last states to join. However, instead of finding itself suffering from whiplash brought on by opponents, it’s managed to perform one of the few, smooth implementations of the standards. Even so, this year did see a rather strong push to have the Core taken out of the state.

Defeating the Bill

As far as Core controversy goes, North Carolina has managed to stay out of the spotlight for many years. They brought in the new standards, put them to use in the classrooms and that seemed to be the end of it. Then, in 2015, House Bill 1461 came to light, demanding the state withdraw from Common Core altogether. Interestingly enough, the Bill was actually divided into two parts.

The first, Division A, required North Dakota to withdraw from the Core’s standardized test, Smarter Balance. This section was surprisingly torn, with a final vote of 43-46, falling to defeat by only three votes. Standardized tests are never positive subjects, so it came as no big surprise to find such dissent, especially with the bad stories about Smarter Balance emerging from other states.

The second, Division B, called for the total cancellation of the standards and was defeated 89-0, proving that the state stands firmly behind the standards. In fact, legislators at the hearing cited that the majority of educators across the state stood behind a Core that was developed for the state by the input of over 130 educators from North Dakota. To the parents that would argue the standards are too hard, representatives ask them why raising the bar is such a bad thing.

Parent Opposition

In light of the defeat, upset parents have been voicing their concerns that the state just isn’t listening, citing the 1,400 petitions around the state calling for the Core’s removal. Many talk about being worried about how such changes are affecting the children. In response, lawmakers point out the absurdity of getting upset over a test that hasn’t even been given yet. In the end, though, the parents opposing it aren’t loud enough to force the legislature into overthrowing a stable system the teachers are now integrated into.
In amongst the debates flying across the nation about the validity of or unconstitutional reach of Common Core, North Dakota remains a fervent fan even in the face of a few upset parents. To their educators throughout the state, the changes have all been for the better, and they have never been more ready to implement the new standardized testing than now. So long as the standards do what they promise and North Dakota adheres to them, their future looks much brighter due to the greater educational challenge.

New Mexico’s Common Core Adoption

Common Core appeared in New Mexico on November 29, 2010 with full support by the state. Unfortunately, such acceptance hasn’t lasted, turning it into a hotbed of protest not seen in even the most conservative states. While New Mexico has yet to join the increasingly long list of states to drop the Core entirely, it is nevertheless demonstrating signs of discontent from the usual parents and, more interestingly, from the students as well.

Initial Support

When the Common Core became an option back in 2010, Governor Susana Martinez grabbed hold and purported it to be the educational change the state needed to finally help it reach a competitive status in regards to national and worldwide educational standards. Behind her stood the Secretary of the Public Education Department, Hanna Skandera, loudly trumpeting New Mexico’s exemption to the Now Child Left Behind bill because of the switch to the Core, freeing the state from arguably restrictive measures.

Six Years Later

While it started fierce and fiery, support has wavered. Instead of seeing academic growth, reading and math scores are stagnant and ACT scores have even dropped. The new curriculum even shifted graduation standards, resulting in a drop in graduates. Due to this, many parents are taking advantage of the option they have to opt their children out of the Core.

Unlike the other states, however, it’s not just the parents crying out against the Core. Earlier this year, students in Albuquerque took a stand against the PARCC assessment test used to grade students on their Core aptitude by holding a walkout. A few hundred students joined in even though administrators warned them of consequences. Outside, they stood along the road with signs, getting passersby to honk in support.

The Core versus PARCC

While this may seem like a stand against the Core, it should be noted that PARCC is not a part of the Common Core curriculum. It’s merely an assessment test designed to examine students’ knowledge of the Core standards. Much like all statewide exams, though, it fails to actually provide an accurate representation of the students forced to take it. Because this was its first year counting toward graduation, many students became angered that a new test would determine if they were smart enough to graduate or not.

In light of this, Governor Martinez noted that the state has been preparing for years for this test. In reality, the thousands of other students that did participate reported nothing out of the ordinary save for the occasional computer glitch. Such information hints at the fact that students will never appreciate being judged by a number on a paper even though the SAT and ACT has been doing so for years. As far as the Core and PARCC are concerned in New Mexico, it seems the negativity is being focused on in spite of successes across the state.

No Common Core for Virginia

Of the 50 states, seven decided against adopting the Common Core standards with Virginia being one of them. Their decision was based on the fact that they had already poured large amounts of money into developing a statewide standard, the Virginia Standards of Learning, which Virginian educators see as being superior to the curriculum set forth by the Core. Because of this, Virginia has proven to be one of the few states that has avoided the hot topic debate since opponents to the Core became vocal around 2011.

A Decade Long Adaptation

Virginia’s decision not to adopt the core was not made lightly. While the federally funded standards cost over $4 billion to piece together, Virginia’s own curriculum also required an incredible amount of funding. On top of this, the state’s standards have been honed over a period of 10 years, steadily adapting to the challenges and rigors of each subsequent generation of Virginians.

Though the Standards of Learning have proven to be effective, this doesn’t mean the Core went by without any kind of consideration. In fact, many educators compared the curriculum between the two options and then adjusted the state options accordingly. It is one of the few states that maintained a level-head as it found a realistic way to satisfy the Common Core without signing on to any national program. In addition, the entire system has remained familiar to both students and teachers, saving them from the outrage recent Core test PARCC has caused this past school year.

A State on a Mission

Virginia does not pretend it is perfect. While states like Texas seem to have been offended at the idea of better standards for the children, Virginia has welcomed the challenge, openly admitting that there are still many areas they can, and will, improve upon. One way they plan to do this is by placing a greater emphasis on reading and math during the early years of school, saving math and history emphasis for later. This wouldn’t mean dropping the subjects altogether, it would simply mean either broadening or deepening the talk based on the importance of the subject at the specific grade level.

This way of thinking is in direct contrast to the mentality of the other states now trying to buck the Core. Virginian educators see this as a challenge for their state. Once met, they hope to achieve a statewide standard that is “fewer, clearer, higher” than the Core while still providing the children of the state every opportunity they need to succeed after graduation.

As for the future? Virginia is staunch in its stand against the Core. By utilizing its benefits, they have peacefully integrated in the next generation of what the world expects from coming generations. Since it is working so well now, there is absolutely no need by the state to make drastic conversions.

Rhode Island – Small State, Big Controversy

Adopted July 1, 2010, the Rhode Island Common Core is still hanging in there amidst a torrent of opposition. Interestingly enough, it seems the smallest state in the nation is having one of the loudest battles regarding its educational future. Even so, it would seem that the noise may be just that—noise.

Quiet Until 2014

Unlike most states that began fighting their Cores in 2013, Rhode Island was a bit delayed. Arriving at the start of 2014, opponents have begun growing their voices. Including some teachers, a few parents and three communities, the group is publicly questioning if the cost of implementing the Core has been worth it. There was even a bill introduced by Republican Gregg Amore asking for a delay of a new test until 2015. As it turns out, the bill was supported.

Such malcontent stems from the main argument that the Common Core is a government plan to infiltrate and take over the entire US school system, a future that does not sit well with the states that very much enjoy their solidarity. Tacked on to this is the belief that the heavy focus on math and English is only there to undermine the values the state places on other subjects by limiting what teachers can do.

Core Debate

In truth, the Core developed out of a desire to keep up with the rest of the world in terms of educational might. Studies have shown that America is no longer the educational utopia it once was, falling behind countries like Germany and Japan. It also emerged as a potential solution to finally close the gap between the education received by low-income and that of high-income children, a move that would even the playing field come college application time.

As the cry for delay of implementation grows louder, so, too, does the questioning of who developed the Core for Rhode Island. Some college professors weren’t invited and remain unconvinced the new curriculum was fine-tuned by childhood experts. In response, now ex-Commissioner of Education Deborah Gist cited evidence of deep teacher involvement. As one of the biggest proponents of the Core, she was sure to bring in many educators from across the state to develop the standards into something that would work for the state and its children.

Tied to this is the fear that the standards will stifle teacher creativity, stealing away their freedom to teach. According to those behind it, the standards are a living document, designed to be flexible enough for each teacher to adapt it to his or her classroom.

No matter the acceptance or hatred of the Core, so far those against it are only asking for a delay, not a full blown reprieve. If educators can keep it in play for long enough to deliver proof that it works, there’s a good chance Rhode Island won’t join the number of states already pulling out.

New Jersey’s Two-Faced Core Conundrum

New Jersey was a part of the first wave of Common Core adopters, agreeing to take them on June 23, 2010 with full implementation by the 2013-14 school year. While their ambition matched that of all the other states that were promised potential access to the $4.35 billion in “Race to the Top” grants, the state’s tune has changed dramatically the closer it has gotten to election year, and the more assured Governor Chris Christie is of running for Presidency.

The Typical Evolution

New Jersey isn’t a special case by any means. It adopted the Core, probably tempted by grant money more than interest in the future of its students, then began integration over the course of the five years since. There have been proponents. There have been opponents. However, even as recent as 2004, the Board of Education remained steadfast in its support of these new standards. As it was to turn out, the start of 2015 cast the Core in a different light.

Political Bias

As of May 2015, Governor Christie no longer supports the Core, promising the state that it will completely pull out once New Jersey standards are developed by the end of the year. According to him, the Core has caused nothing but five years of turmoil that has ripped apart the community, leaving frustrated parents distanced from teachers. News sources are quick to point out that this change has only come around the same time as his grab for the Republican nomination. Even with this, that’s not all that seems a bit off.

Christie, though now a firm opponent of the Core, is only confusing the parents he decried as frustrated by sticking with the PARCC, the yearly assessment that grades students on their aptitude regarding Common Core standards. While odd, Christie did explain that the only way to not lose federal funding was to stick with PARCC. In truth, the government requires yearly statewide testing, but it certainly doesn’t have to be with a test devoted strictly to standards Christie seems determined to dismiss.

The public is very much of this same opinion. Though New Jersey’s Board of Education is rolling with the punches as best as it can, it was more than happy to call out Christie’s hypocrisy. To them, if he truly wants to purge the state of the Core, he needs to get rid of everything tied to it. They even go so far as to point to PARCC as the main problem, not the standards themselves.

An Unsure Future

The debate will no doubt continue until the coming election finishes. Until that happens, however, New Jersey will remain a hotbed of outspoken politicians calling each other out on hypocrisy and flip-flopping while the actual effect on the students and teachers will continue to go ignored just like it always has.

Uniquely Intense Debate for Common Core Standards in New Hampshire

Though a small state, New Hampshire has been embroiled in the Common Core debate so uniquely intense on the east coast since it adopted them July 13, 2010. From that day, it has met with nothing but a storm of conflict ripping through the states closest to DC. While it’s fought off a lot of naysayers over the past few years with some compromises, it nonetheless has had to put its foot down legally to keep the Core in place.

Veto Power

Earlier this year, Governor Maggie Hassan used her power to completely veto a bill that would have prohibited every school in New Hampshire from implementing the new standards. Named Bill 101, Hassan vehemently argued that such a bill would completely undercut the state’s aim to bring their students successfully into a 21st century work force. To her, the Core represents an innovative push into the future through modernized education akin to the standards upheld in Europe and Asia.

This is in retaliation to the growing voice of opposition that appeared around 2013. Those against it paint it as a federal scheme to undermine state control of education with the temptation of desperately needed federal money as the means to get states to sign on to an otherwise optional program. Instead of debasing the voices, Hassan appealed to them directly, asking them to not focus on the Core so much as the continued authority of the local districts over how the standards are implemented and taught.

Opting Out & Flexibility

Joining many other states to do so, New Hampshire, once a staunch voice against the practice, backtracked its ideals, passing Bill 603. This now allows parents to opt their children out of the standardized testing that accompanies Common Core. Like many states, though the new curriculum holds promise, the standardized testing does not. Seen as a long time hindrance to actual education, more and more parents are quick to save their children from the joke of standardized testing they once had to endure.

To combat this, New Hampshire then agreed to work to give their schools more freedom in regards to assessing student progress. While schools do need assessments to adhere to the federal No Child Left Behind Act, the reluctance of parents to use Smarter Balance as the means by which their children are judged has forced the state’s hand. To go beyond the Common Core standardized test, New Hampshire is looking at both the SAT and ACT, two national tests that are actually used by the nation’s colleges to judge aptitude. With the Core aiming to make the children better ready for college, it would make sense that then applying that to tests that matter for their future careers should be the standard they seek to reach.

Economic Growth Hopes from Common Core in Maine

Unlike most of the other early adopters, Maine held out officially taking in Common Core until April 4, 2011. Even though a year later in enactment, opposition still arose in 2013 with the nationalization of concerns regarding the Core. While just as noisome as across the rest of the US, Maine is standing its ground against the onslaught of bills seeking to repeal the applied standards.

2014 Ballot

Adopted and implemented during the 2011 year, Maine became one of over 40 other states to agree to adhere to the Common Core standards initiative. While there were about two years of silence from the public, it was the Maine Equal Rights Center that spoke out first. In August of 2013, they declared that they would launch a petition campaign to repeal the curriculum. If it managed to collect enough signatures, 58,000, an option to fully repeal the standards would enter onto the November 2014 ballot. That many signatures would have also made it the first petition of its kind in the US. Though seemingly backed by a large amount of people, there were not enough to make it a reality, leaving the group defunct currently.

Former Governor Support

Not a few months later, former Governor, John McKernan Jr., went on record during a heavily attended conference of education to state that he very much supported the Common Core. In front of over 300 Maine educators, he declared his belief that the standards would have a positive impact on the educational lives of Maine’s students, allowing them a fighting chance at attending the best colleges around the world.

One of his main arguments was the benefit the Core could potentially have on the Maine economy. During 2013, there was a reported huge skills gap with many employers in every sector decrying the lack of skilled workers. By improving public schools, he argued, the economy would see the growth it was asking for.

Science Veto

It should be noted that Common Core only ever sought to upgrade English Language Arts and math. However, recent developments have introduced a science section. Unfortunately, current Governor Paul LePage gave his veto to a bill that would have required the implementation of Common Core science, citing budget restrictions in an already financially burdened time. While a fan of educational growth, LePage couldn’t justify forcing every school in Maine to rewrite their science curriculums.

Interestingly enough, many were disappointed. While English and math were certainly offensive enough to garner such statewide hatred, science certainly brought the two conflicting sides together, seeing this subjects as a way to foster job growth in Maine. Even still, current leaders are quick to point out that in about a year or two they plan on officially bringing in the science aspect of Common Core. Resources are stretched thin, and they need a bit more time.

Unique Consequences of Common Core in South Dakota

Of all the states to adopt Common Core, South Dakota has seen some of the most unique arguments of all the 45 states involved. Adopted November 29, 2010, the state senate has seen its fair share of bills trying to repeal the adoption altogether. As it becomes clearer that the state is going to stick with its decision to go with the Core, opponents are citing everything they can as reasons to prevent fixing it and promote flunking it.

Native American Suicide Rate

Above all the other arguments, tying the Common Core standards to increased Native American suicide rates is by far the most unique to South Dakota. Nowhere else has this argument come about. According to Republican Elizabeth May, the standards are stressing out an already taxed population of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. She firmly argues that the curriculum puts way too much pressure on the students, resulting in many not even attending school in addition to teachers quitting under the increased pressure to perform.

Parent Fighting Testing

This recent school year saw the first influx of parents fighting to keep their kids from taking the standardized test, Smarter Balanced. Back in 2014, the state actually wrote a bill that would allow parents to opt their children out of the test. Unfortunately, it was defeated 8-7 in the House Education Committee. It appeared again in early 2015 and still met with defeat.

While the parents didn’t have legal support by the state to opt their children out of the test, many did it anyway. Be it because they were tired of all of the testing or through fear of federal takeover, a small percentage of South Dakotan parents kept their children home from school the days of the test. While they only represented a tenth of a percent in regards to the total population of the state, it nonetheless confused policy makers on how to react. Though there is no legal support for opting out, there’s nothing that tells schools or officials what to do when parents decide to go this route.

Common Core Survival

In amidst this hodgepodge of debate, legislation stands strong in support of their scholastic change. Earlier this year, House Bill 1223 journeyed through the House in an attempt to repeal the Common Core. Bolstered by the budget spent on it and the years teachers spent preparing, lawmakers basically forced it out of circulation by giving it a recommendation of “do not pass”. In reaction to this, they passed a statement declaring that they would defeat any other such bills trying to worm their way through the system. Opponents decried a lack of time to hear arguments against the standards, but the committee presiding the two hour event that featured parents, teachers and officials snapped back, telling them everyone had their chance and the hearing rules were followed.