Category Archives: Schools

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.

Illinois Changes its attitude about Common Core

A weird amalgamation of liberalism in its city of Chicago and conservatism out in every other area, Illinois has taken the more liberal route in regards to education. Following the reveal of the Common Core, the state voted to adopt the standards on June 24, 2010. In addition, it became and has remained an active member of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for Colleges and Careers (PARCC), the group tasked with developing the new standardized test for the Core. That being said, the state is slowly becoming more two-sided in light of the PARCC test scores that released in 2015.

 

Growing Pains

Like most states, Illinois saw an extreme drop in readiness for college as determined by these test scores. Across every district, scores were low, prompting educators to send home letters of explanation so as to shield the children from any parental punishment. That being said, it’s the conservative districts that took the scores in stride, logically drawing the conclusion that a new test was bound to be lower since both teachers and students had never taken anything like it before.

 

Growing Resentment

While the non-Chicago areas are continuing to work to improve, it’s the big city that’s harboring a growing break between the Core and everyone else. From educators to parents, the PARCC test has been vilified as ruining the already struggling school system. Educators see it as an evil that is turning away both prospective and current teachers. Parents encouraged students to protest the exam, leading to certain schools reporting a 54% no-show rate. Unlike other states, educators are fully supportive of the parents doing this, even in light of Mayor Rahm Emmanuel shaming them for siding with the parents.

While it might seem like a great stand against a perceived evil, the fight to force the students to take the test is embroiled in a much more complex issue of funding and poor performing schools. In reality, it was only the higher performing schools with the wealthier parents that supported such a boycott of the PARCC. Such skip rates did not happen in the poorer districts. In addition, the state needs to maintain a 95% participation rate in order to continue to receive funding for these lower-performing and often underfunded schools – schools that have no bearing on the costly private institutes that are causing such a fuss.

In the end, the PARCC results have done nothing to prove or dismantle any theories so much as entrench individuals further in their current beliefs. Parents that believed the Core to be an evil now have found justification. Educators that knew lower test scores were coming are further convinced that this change is for the better, they just need more time. Though the Core will no doubt remain a staple of the state’s education system, what happens to the PARCC remains to be seen.

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.

 

Oregon’s Common Core Continues Movement

It’s been five years since Oregon adopted the Common Core standards and only this year took their first standardized test based on this new set of grade graduation requirements. As far as the state is concerned, though, it has given nothing but support and continues to provide this support as its teachers have adapted and pushed forward with this more rigorous set of learning standards.

 

Common Core Positivity

As a state not embroiled in Common Core fighting, Oregon news on the subject remains as unbiased as possible, doing its best to portray the adoption in a more positive light. When searching for news, Oregon is one of the few states to not have a “Parents Against Common Core” website populate one of the first results. It’s a shocking difference to anyone that has actually spent time reading about this issue.

 

State Exam Negativity

Though teachers and parents are accepting of the Core, it’s the state exams that have recently proven to be a problem. Known as PARCC, or the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, the standardized test has been created by representatives from each state to test students to the Core standards. Unfortunately, the implementation of this new test has led to some rather upsetting growing pains.

According to a survey released November 2015, many in Oregon’s teachers union are very concerned about this new test. Interestingly enough, though, it’s not about their students’ abilities to succeed. Instead, it’s more about the lost instructional time. One of the main examples used in this expression of concern revolved around “Raoul”, a Spanish-speaking student that had trouble reading but loved his wood shop class. Because of the testing, his time spent woodworking was severely decreased, so much so that during one testing phase, he simply clicked random answers to be done with the test while choking back tears.

However, this didn’t stop the testing from proceeding as planned. On top of the time sink, this year’s testing results have also shown just how many students aren’t at a college-ready level. In fact, only two-thirds of the state’s students read well enough for higher education while less than half have the math skills required. The state found that the usual low-income/high-income discrepancies are still there, with the economically struggling having the hardest time.

Not all hope is lost, though. In one school, teachers were able to virtually destroy this disparity, equipping over 80% of its lower income students with the education needed to achieve success in college. According to the teachers there, it’s all about showing the students how they can use what they’re learning in real life. If citations lead to a bigger allowance, kids will listen.

Common Core in Texas

We all know that it’s important for our children to be adequately educated so they can compete in the world job market once they’re adults. The Common Core Standards are a set of educational guidelines established by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) along with the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center). These guidelines define the specific knowledge a student needs to acquire in order to graduate or be promoted to the next grade. Although it is completely voluntary, these universal standards have already been implemented in many states to ensure that students all over the country are on the same educational track and ready for employment or college once high school graduation comes around. While a number of states have already adopted the Common Core Standards, there are indeed some states that have decided not to follow these recommended educational guidelines. Along with Nebraska, Virginia and Alaska, the state of Texas also rejected the adoption of Common Core.

 

In May of 2013 the 83rd Texas Legislature passed House Bill 462, which prohibits any public school district in the state from adopting the Common Core Standards. The vote was overwhelmingly in favor of rejecting the standards with a total of 140 voting for the bill, 2 “Nays” and 2 non-votes. The new law later went into effect on September 1, 2013 and the decision not to adopt the Common Core Standards in Texas has left many of the state’s educators, parents and politicians at odds. This may be because there are many people who seem to be misinformed about the facts.

 

Some Texas legislators have expressed that they believe the standards are intentionally set low to accommodate students nationwide, while others don’t want Texas students to get left behind. There are also teacher organizations that have united to display their dissatisfaction with the possibility of having to teach according to standards set by the federal government and not locally. Contrary to what some may believe, the Common Core Standards are not a curriculum at all and they are not overseen or governed by the federal government. The implementation of these standards is actually left up to the governors who are supposed to work together with the CCSSO and NGA to ensure every student is provided with a quality education. The Common Core Standards also do not specify what and how a teacher teaches, as they are only a set of benchmarks and educational goals a child needs to reach each year.

 

There are quite a few reasons why so many Texan leaders, such as Governor Greg Abbott, do not want to implement the Common Core Standards in school districts throughout the state. The issue is still a hot topic that has been debated by many educators, school board members, politicians and parents. If you want to learn the truth about the Common Core Standards, it’s recommended you conduct your own research. With just a quick search, you’ll realize that there is plenty of factual information available online which is based on studies and statistics.

 

Maryland’s Common Core Scores are set to Rise in Future Years

Back on July 22, 2010, Maryland joined on as one of the first states to allow for the eventual implementation of the Common Core. While it has met with resistance similar to that seen all over the country, it has nevertheless remained firm in its stance of adoption, strategically silencing any opponents that arise. That being said, the recently released PARCC scores (a statewide test that aligns its questions to Common Core standards) are ushering in a new wave of fear.

Protest

Most states agreed to adopt the Core back in 2010. During this time, states held open houses, inviting all parents, teachers and other education community members to weigh in on the whys and hows of implementation. Three years later, those that didn’t heed the call began rallying against the new curriculum with many fearing it to be some sort of twisted Federal plot to influence the children. Though scary, these opponents failed to realize that the Core was and remains fully adaptable to the needs of each and every school. It doesn’t tell teachers what to teach and how to teach it. It gives them a set of standards students should reach by the time they graduate each grade level. This alone has allowed Maryland to maintain its firm, supportive stance of the Core.

Scores

Just because the state supports the Core doesn’t mean it hasn’t made concessions to protect its teachers and students from unjust penalties. In 2013, for instance, Maryland voted to delay teacher evaluations based off of Common Core tests until 2016-2017. The sole reason for this was because of the simple fact that the teachers needed more time to learn how to teach these new assessments, a move that is allowing each educator time to feel out the best way to approach teaching the standards.

In the end, this proved to be a smart move. In October of this year, the first PARCC test scores were released, revealing that less than half of the state’s students passed 10th grade Algebra I, Algebra II and English. However, instead of a tumultuous uproar from the community decrying the test and the Core as terrible things, most have found the facts sobering. While all understand it takes a few years for test score on new exams to improve, the more challenging curriculum has laid bare the fact that students aren’t ready for higher education. But instead of tossing out PARCC in favor on an easier test to bloat scores like Ohio has done, Maryland is taking this setback as a challenge. Once the nation’s leader in terms of education, they see now that there are major flaws that must be fixed if the children are to succeed in an ever increasingly competitive and globally connected world.

Common Core in the US

Educational reforms have long been a sore point in the United States. As each state is responsible for its own academic standards, many become defensive when the federal government tries to implement any form of change. While solidarity has led to some incredible programs in certain states, it has also led to equally as poor educational pursuits in others. Because of this, the US has seen a decline in its academic standing when compared with other first world nations, prompting the creation of the Common Core.

The Common Core

It must be stated outright that the Common Core has never been a federally mandated program. Instead, it is a set of standards for grades K-12 developed by leading educators from across the country. Its purpose is to get school systems up to par with global competitors so that America’s graduates have a shot at being accepted into good colleges and landing even better jobs.

Another important distinction that needs to be pointed out is that it’s not a specific program. It is merely general objectives students should be able to achieve by the time they graduate from one grade to the next. For example, where fifth graders will need to understand non-fiction, 8th graders will need to be able to analyze it critically. In addition, teachers and school systems are the ones to decide how these objectives are taught, allowing the states total control over this perceived federal take over.

Nothing New

When the Core was finalized, Washington tied to it the chance to receive funding for education, prompting many states to agree to Core adoption blindly. Not four years later when campaign bids started up and the standards were supposed to have been implemented did states begin speaking out against it. While some states, like Montana, have had no trouble whatsoever implementing the shift, other states, like Mississippi, are doing what they can to repeal the Core in favor of a state-sanctioned set of rules.

Oddly enough, the Core is anything but new in regards to the American education system. All states have created their own set of standards and implemented those. Like the core, these standards clearly define exactly what students should be able to do by the time they reach the end of that grade. This is all the Core is. The only difference is that the Core would then put every state on the same page, giving students equal opportunities to succeed no matter where they live.

Why, then, is it so hated?

The answer is never simple. From uneducated parents rallying behind favorite politicians to politicians flip-flopping because of upcoming elections, the entire thing has shifted away from the good it would do for the children to the emotionally charged knee-jerk reactions of the parents. For the wide majority of the states, educators fully support Common Core, but their support seems to fall on deaf ears.

Puerto Rico has its own Common Core Opinion

Though Common Core has been a highly controversial topic within the states, most news agencies forget that it hasn’t just been affecting them. In fact, all US territories have been offered the chance to adopt these new educational standards, including Guam, the American Samoan Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Of these territories, it’s Puerto Rico that has resisted adoption entirely, joining the ranks of Texas, Alaska and Oklahoma.

A Failing System

The story of not adopting the standards is inextricably tied to Puerto Rico’s current failing economy. With no power to vote, the country has been nothing but a slave to American interests based on economic needs and wants. Having been abused for so long now, the country has amassed a stunning $72 million in debt worsened by the decreasing population as those that can move somewhere else, do. To put this into perspective, Puerto Rico is twice as poor as Mississippi, the poorest state, but has double the cost of living.

What does this have to do with education?

Everything.

Much like rural school systems in the states are often years behind their more affluent city counterparts, Puerto Rico is doing everything it can to stay financially afloat including slashing an already depressingly low school budget. In the face of such a budget, the last thing the country needed was to add a curriculum that would cost money the country doesn’t have to implement in accordance with US design.

Pulling Back from Education

A recent report from former IMF consultants found that if Puerto Rico where to lay off teachers, drastically cut education spending and a variety of other steps, they could begin to get the financial situation under control. However, it’s also widely recognized that a stronger economy requires a good education system in order to keep the work force strong. It’s become a catch-22 that both students and teachers are ready to protest.

Is there a solution? At the moment, there doesn’t appear to be a clear answer. After all, the problems are highly varied and not entirely clear themselves. The one thing they all agreed on, however, was that Common Core was not needed. To a country in their position, Common Core is a hope for a future where the educational system isn’t continually threatened by the economy.

In the end, Puerto Rico isn’t against Common Core so much as it is unable to hold debates about it. There are far more pressing matters looming on the horizon, making these standards seem trivial in light of trying to keep money in the school system. Provided financial hope can be cultivated, there may be adoption plans for the future. For now, however, the Core isn’t even important enough to spark the widespread debate seen in the states.

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 York’s adaptation of Common Core

Adopted July 19, 2010, New York brought in the Common Core standards in a very similar fashion to the rest of the US. Though initially planned to be put into practice by the 2013-14 school year, it has since faced an extension as educators and parents continue to vehemently express their concerns. However, such a move is leaving the state without a way to hold their teachers accountable for poor performance.

More Time

Though everything was supposed to be ready to go by the end of 2013, New York’s Board of Regents, the group responsible for overseeing all educational activity of the state, managed to delay the implementation by five more years, promising even the class of 2022 that they won’t be held to the standards. On top of this, they also granted teachers a two years’ reprieve from any type of consequences stemming from the new standardized test being given.

According to the group, they have heard concerns from both teachers and parents and feel everyone still requires more time to adjust accordingly. Many see this as an understandable reaction since just last year the new statewide exam was given, resulting in plummeting test scores. Many immediately blamed those in charge of the state’s educational system, citing that they failed to prepare classrooms enough for the change.

More Money

Of course, this change doesn’t come cheaply. In fact, this new course comes with a price tag of $525 million that will be used to train teachers to implement the standards. The Governor was less than pleased to hear this, especially since the teachers wouldn’t be held accountable for two years. In retaliation, he called for a serious re-examination of the ability of the Board of Regents to perform correctly, citing the two year grace period as yet another way for them to block the implementation of any kind of teacher evaluation system. One, he says, that is desperately needed.

However, not everyone is upset. The many legislators on both sides of the fence that were pushing for a delay understandably fully support this decision. It’s a step in the right direction to these supporters, giving parents, students and teachers what they’ve needed to ease most of the concerns.
In New York, the question isn’t about whether to get rid of Common Core, it’s about whether or not it will ever be implemented. Already the official switchover date has been pushed back nearly a decade in addition to postponing the general exam’s ability to prove or disprove a teacher’s abilities. No matter the outcome, the schools now have plenty of time to figure out and implement the Common Core standards that are so much tougher than New York’s previous requirements.