29 Jun

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.

24 Jun

Implementation of Common Core in Ohio

On June 18, 2010, Ohio officially adopted the Common Core standards. Like all states, no one really cared about its passage until 2013 turned it into a controversy. Supported by teachers, unions, the PTA and even Governor John Kasich, the rigorous standards appeared a great option until the controversy swept in. Since then, it’s been a back and forth with politics driving the wedge between opponents and proponents even deeper.

2010-11

In this early period, Ohio both adopted the standards and was awarded one of the Race to the Top educational grants. One year later, they joined the developmental effort to create standardized tests that matched the Core’s curriculum, an initiative led by PARCC and Smarter Balanced. It was a relatively slow time in terms of debate.

2013

Then, from seemingly out of nowhere, the opposition grew fast and strong. Often cited as being fueled by conservatives as well as other states successfully stopping their own implementations of Common Core, bills began appearing calling for the total repeal of the standards. Even though the entire education committee stood behind the Core because it introduced the most rigorous standards Ohio had ever seen, opponents seemed to be crawling at their chance to pass legislation that would stop it. Many even admit to having never even heard about the standards until implementation really kicked into gear to prep for testing in 2014.

2015

Though naysayers continued throughout 2014 to shut down the Core, Ohio stood strong, continuing forward until this year’s first round of official testing. Much like anything new, though, it met with plenty of bugs that left the school’s less than pleased. Including crashes and what was widely considered to be a waste of time, lawmakers have been quick to move toward scrapping PARCC altogether in favor of a multiple standardized testing system where each district gets to choose their own test.

In response to this, PARCC Chairman Char Shylock is continuing to fight hard for the test they’ve worked so hard to build, citing that new things are always hard. They will have issues. However, the company is responding to and fixing everything reported to them, exemplifying this by a reported 85% drop in calls to their help center following the first trial.

Even still, both Republicans and Democrats in Ohio are actually agreeing. Both sides support a multi-test system. In their eyes, it’s the only way for school districts to assign tests that accurately measure their students’ improvements over the course of the kids’ educational careers.

While the debates still rage on, it’s no longer about repealing Common Core so much as it is about how best to mold it to fit the needs of the students in Ohio. With total implementation finally over, the hardest part now is deciding how to turn it into state standards that everyone can be happy with.

22 Jun

Success with New Standards in Nevada

Unlike the majority of the states, Common Core is firmly supported by virtually all of Nevada. Adopted June 22, 2010, teachers, parents and even the legislature have stood behind it, proudly announcing the success their students are reaping from the new standards. While dissent grew in the north, it was handled responsibly and respectfully, making Nevada one of the more mature states of this entire debate.

Small Discontent

In late 2013 and early 2014, it became clear that Northern Nevadans were growing increasingly upset with the Common Core. Instead of forcing them to comply or otherwise threatening to cut funding, the Nevada Board of Education, Washoe County School District and Education Alliance of Northern Nevada teamed up in an effort to educate the public about the Core standards. The Superintendent then announced a string of open forums where the entire community would be invited to partake in an honest discussion about what the Core is and what it is not.

Support and Mishaps

With the successful role out of the new standards came the inevitable turn to mandatory yearly testing that coincided with the new curriculum. Unfortunately, this met with a bit of a snag. On the first day of testing, computers around the state crashed, bringing the test to an indefinite halt. The Superintendent of Public Instruction was less than pleased with Measured Progress’ ability to deliver a system without bugs. As it turns out, the testing company didn’t have enough server power, resulting in a crash as soon as too many students logged in. Luckily, however, not every school was affected. Those that waited a little longer managed to get on and take the test without issue.

While the error was inevitably fixed and students were able to finally show what they learned, a proposal entered into the Nevada assembly. Its contents, written by Brent Jones, would have forced all Nevada schools to allow the parents the right to opt their kids out of any standardized test that paralleled the Common Core, claiming the Core to be an experiment on the children. While no one was allowed to testify for or against after his speech, the proposal failed.

In response to not being heard at the actual hearing, many educators took to the internet to share their first hand opinion of the common core. Hands down, they see it as one of the best things to happen to their poverty-stricken students. Instead of forcing the students to memorize without understanding, it gets them to figure out the answers on their own, coming to the same conclusions but with a complete grasp of the concepts. These teachers want nothing more than to see their bilingual students become the first in their families to attend and excel in college, achieving the American Dream that so many of us forget.

17 Jun

Louisana and Common Core Confusion

Amid relatively calm political waters, Louisiana formally adopted the Common Core July 1, 2010. Like as it is in the majority of states, the shift to the new standards went unopposed up until 2013. Suddenly, those that helped usher it in stood in staunch defiance against it. Most notably, Governor Bobby Jindal has been trying his hardest to apply pressure to have it removed altogether.

The Delay

The first bout of opposition occurred in 2013 when Superintendent of Education John White announced that the implementation, most notably how students and teachers were to be judged, would be delayed. This was followed up by a 10 year plan to make sure implementation was done correctly, based heavily on the call for more time by Louisiana educators.

As far as the students were concerned, the Core standardized test, PARCC, would only be given to students in grades 3 through 8 only, saving high schoolers from a dramatic change in schooling that could negatively affect them before college. While the wait was well received, many educators remained skeptical. They’d been complaining about the poor implementation since 2010 and were unsure if the delay would actually change things for the better or merely delay the inevitable.

The Confusion

A year later, in 2014, Jindal called for the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education as well as the Louisiana Legislature to completely replace the Common Core with a Louisiana option. This did nothing but throw the state back into confusion over the Core. Educators refused to do such a thing, seeing the standards as a chance for the less-than-stellar Louisiana educational system to finally reward its students with a meaningful curriculum. Jindal took the age old stance that the standards were a move to increase the government’s control.

News sources were quick to point out Jindal’s flip on the issue. While a staunch supporter back in the days of adoption, it wasn’t until a conservative outcry appeared that his stance switched. Because he sees himself as a presidential hopeful in the coming election, though many were surprised at his change of heart, none were confused as to why he did so.

The Lawsuit

Because of this, a group of teachers, parents and charter schools joined forces and filed a lawsuit against Jindal. They claimed his actions did nothing but sow discord all the while displaying his overstepping his bounds as Governor. The accusers were quick to point out the Core is to help the children, not further Jindal’s political motivations. While Jindal’s executive order to remove the Core ultimately failed in light of the Superintendent’s defiance, the plaintiffs saw to strip away further power from Jindal by preventing a delay he tried to cause with a test maker. Though torn about Common Core politically, this only serves to show that everyone outside of politics in Louisiana supports the promise the Core brings to the state.

15 Jun

Common Core a Hot Topic in Michigan

Of all the 50 states, Michigan has been hardest hit in terms of political maneuvering to dismantle the Common Core in their state. Passed June 15, 2010, things were calm until the big debate over the new standards broke in 2013. Since then, it’s been nothing but political bickering that puts the educators and students in the center with no power of their own to decide what works for them.

Budget Stipulation

The very first incident to get in the way of Core implementation happened in 2013. During discussions of the state budget, opponents of the new standards slipped in a stipulation that would end up barring spending on the Core. Not even Governor Rick Snyder had the power to remove such a detrimental rule from the $49.5 million bill. This resulted in a period of months where implementation was stalled, leaving schools in a frustrating limbo where they had to halt everything all while wondering if they were going to have to take away certain things because of the budget squeeze. Then, in October 2013, after months of hearings, funding finally came back to the schools.

Testing Confusion

In 2014, opponents performed yet another debilitating maneuver by shutting down the statewide exam planned to be given to students in grades 3 through 8. They even went as far as to bar that specific test entirely. Because of this, Michigan was left with no time to create a substitute since the process generally takes about three years. However, they were allowed a loophole where they could still administer the test so long as it was under a different name.

While frustrating, the ruling led to a sad situation for students, one that will be forcing them to take three completely different exams in three years. Apart from the confusion, this continual test changing only leads to the impossibility of accurately tracking students’ progress in each grade level, preventing both the state’s responsibility to adhere to the federal government’s requirement that all states are responsible for their students’ progress as well as grading teachers based on how well their students perform.

A Blame Game

As the teachers struggle to make do with the constantly shifting educational landscape, the politicians that instigated the trouble for the students refuse to take responsibility. Republicans argue that this wouldn’t have happened if the Board of Education had been more vocal in their adoption of the Core back in 2010. Democrats fire back that if the Republicans would stop ruining the implementation, the kids could finally reap the benefits. As for the educators, the oldest simply try their best to ignore it, explaining that there’s always a new curriculum or new standards. In these times, it’s best just to stay focused on what matters most—the students.

10 Jun

Nebraska State Accountability System

As of today, Nebraska remains one of five states that has not adopted the Common Core in any capacity. Though offered the chance like every other state, Nebraska has too many questions in regards to the Core, often citing the belief that its way to teach is not what they see as the best way for their students. Beyond this, discussions are still being held, however the state does not look like it will be opting for adoption in the near future.

Refusing the Call

Back when Common Core made its big debut in 2010, most of the current states to have adopted it jumped on board. Nebraska chose to refrain since the standards weren’t even completed. Once they finally were, officials found the curriculum of both their state standards and the new Core to cover the same exactly material just in a different order.

Amid a lot of legal red tape also making adoption difficult, teachers actively voiced their opinions on both sides of the matter. Some despised what the Common Core stands for while others wanted to see it implemented so that Nebraska wouldn’t stay so far behind in educational standards. To that argument, many head educators laughed, claiming Nebraska is anything but far behind.

Cost of implementation has also kept Nebraska cold. With an estimated cost of $16 billion, the already cash-strapped schools would have no way to afford such a change and have a positive effect on the students. This number doesn’t even figure in the new standardized tests that would cost about $20 per student, nearly double what the cost is now.

Rejection

The Common Core snub didn’t exactly come out of a statewide fear of federalization. Instead, it emerged after a yearlong battle to secure Race to the Top grant money from the government. This $4.3 billion dollar reward was offered to states that agreed to implement Common Core. In the beginning, Nebraska was onboard. Unfortunately, both applications in 2010 failed, leaving the state without any extra funding and no incentive to implement a costly educational overhaul.

Nebraska decided to take matters into its own hands and develop their Nebraska State Accountability system in 2012, a statewide assessment not related to the national tests. As far as curriculum goes, it’s very similar to Common Core but on a smaller scale. The state has set standards. Each district can alter these so long as the change is at least as rigorous as those put forward by the state itself.

As for Nebraska’s educational future? It is almost certain there will be no Common Core adoption for as long as the state can hold out, meaning their students will continue receiving the same education they always have. While Common Core has yet to prove its value through test scores, it will certainly be a point of discussion if the Core is proven effective.

08 Jun

Opening the Door to a Bright Future: Common Core in Massachusetts

Massachusetts has long been one of America’s stars in regards to educational achievement. Scoring high when tested using international standards, many states look to it as a beacon of how to properly prep children for college and beyond. Even still, Massachusetts has been nothing if not a hotbed of controversy regarding its adoption of Common Core back in 2010. While it plans on sticking with the standards, opponents are continuing their vocal outcry.

Initial Adoption

Massachusetts was already a star in the eyes of the nation regarding academics when it voted to adopt Common Core on July 21, 2010. During that time, the state was due for a re-evaluation of its standards and found the newly developed Core to be an improvement on an already optimally performing curriculum. The day it was adopted, it was heralded as a way to spur even further achievement through a collaborative and innovative set of standards.

Even among the praise, heavy dissent arose. Opponents were quick to point out that the Governor was a close friend of Obama and that the Race to the Top money was too tempting. Because only states with Common Core received the stipend, many saw it as a bribe for adoption. Educators, on the other hand, rolled their eyes at these accusations. According to those that adopted it, most were very much on board, seeing the standards as highly adaptable, opening the doors to better education by dropping the old system based on rote memory.

Among this noise, Massachusetts did take steps to limit PARCC, Common Core’s standardized test. They and 10 other states voted to reduce test time as well as decrease the number of times it’s administered per year. While the standards are greatly appreciated, teachers and educators are more than happy to dismantle the standardized testing, knowing full well how detrimental it’s been at every grade level.

Core Progress

While both sides argue on about the pros and cons of the adoption, it’s the students that are reaping the benefits. By doing away with memorization and teaching the kids to analyze and think critically in order to understand concepts, even poorer performing schools are seeing an improvement. The idea is that this will lessen the gap between privileged and underprivileged students. Interestingly enough, it’s the schools with already high performing students that remain the most skeptical. With the vast majority of their students ready to attend college, there’s no rush to change.

Even though the teachers of the poorer performing schools are worried about inundating their students with far too much information during the initial transition, they are nevertheless hopeful this new set of standards will open the door for a brighter future many would otherwise not get. No matter their personal preferences, teachers understand what’s asked of them and are ready to face it head on to give their students the best chance at higher education.

03 Jun

Early Adoption of Common Core Standards in Kentucky

Kentucky stands out among other Common Core adopters as the very first state to adopt them back in 2010. No more than two years later, in 2012, they began issuing the first Common Core tests. Since then, implementation has continued amid some light protesting that has had little effect on the success the state is seeing.

Long-Time Goals

With the praise of Common Core as being the way America finally raises its education bar to meet that of the rest of the world, Kentucky quickly jumped on the opportunity. They found it representative of their years’ long struggle to eventually be able to compete with educational powerhouse states, like Minnesota and Massachusetts. Not two decades earlier, the Kentucky Education Reform Act had been introduced as a way to get the state on top in terms of educational achievement. It ended up failing, with Kentucky math and English standards awarded a D.

Then, in 2009, it was high time for yet another overhaul. This coincided with the release of Common Core talks, resulting in its early adoption even though the standards were not entirely complete. From that point on, it was all about rearranging the curriculum by introducing concepts at younger grade levels than before. While great for children just entering the school system, it proved to be challenging for the kids stuck in the middle grades, forcing them to master the basics as well as new concepts. In addition, it was the poorer ranked schools that felt the largest shift in curriculum. The best ranked saw it as only a minor alteration.

Core Evolution

When the test results in 2012 were released, it was found that the harder standards resulted in poorer results, some proficiency levels even dropping. Supporters were quick to call this a growing pain. After all, it’s a new system with a new structure. States are expected to see a drop before they see a rise.

Nonetheless, this drop led to a bit of controversy from a public that was promised huge improvements. Though 2013 did see the promised increase, many saw it as not high enough. Opponent vocalization grew so loud that the Kentucky board of education in 2013 had to reaffirm their support of Common Core publicly. Even so, this failed to silence everyone. A year later, in 2014, many Kentucky House Republicans introduced House Bill 215 as a way to repeal both Common Core and science standards that were endorsed by many science groups. To the relief of many, the bill was never even voted on with the State Representative choosing to sweep it under the rug.

Currently, Kentucky students are showing improvement in every grade level and in every subject. Though they were slow to improve, the most recent results have shown massive improvement. While this won’t change the mind of every state, it does keep Kentucky happy with its choice as they slowly push toward their long-time goal.

01 Jun

Common Core Standards: A Change for the Better in West Virginia

On June 2, 2010, West Virginia officially adopted Common Core without any protests. Then, four years later, it faced two bills that would either slow down its progress or dismantle it completely. Renamed the West Virginia’s Next Generation Content Standards, it has met with heated debate the longer it has been in existence.

Common Core Controversy

It stands to reason that such a hotly debated topic in other states would eventually hit West Virginia. While there was no dissent when it was adopted, four years later, Legislature that was never involved in the adoption process had suddenly found a vested interest in debating the adoption’s nuances.

In 2014, House Bill 4383 and 4390 were introduced. The first aimed to slow the implementation while keeping the community informed in regards to its implementation process. In accordance with its mandate, a special committee would be established to take on issues of execution and then report on these every six months. The plan would simply give West Virginia two more years to train staff as opposed to starting all over again.

The second, 4390, would see the Core completely gotten rid of. Once the standards are eliminated, West Virginia would be tasked with creating its own curriculum based on the needs of the state educators.

2015 Repeal of the Repeal

While the two Bills did not pass, a vote was held in 2015 that would repeal the Core. Education officials strongly opposed it but found themselves defeated 74-19. Those that supported the ruling claimed it to be a victory against overwhelming government control. They also deemed it to be a victory for the students that deserve better than a national curriculum.

Celebration was short-lived as the educators themselves continued their vehement opposition, citing educational disruption, federal funding cuts and an overall cost to the tune of $100 million. The bill now only requires a comprehensive standards review to make sure the Core properly prepare students for higher education.

Though the war rages on rather fiercely in the Mountain State, West Virginian educators are more for than against the Core. Though many cite limited funding hurting their ability to truly implement the changes required, many see it as a much more student-centric system. Many opponents also denounce West Virginia wanting to develop its own standards as hubris. The Core, after all, was developed by experts from across the nation to mirror proven best practices. Can one state truly hope to achieve what it took countless experts to do?

Though controversial, any attempts to completely destroy the Core’s implementation have failed. With a lot of support coming from the teachers and educators of the state, it seems that the changes have been beneficial even if there are no test scores yet to prove this. So long as there are no drastic changes of heart, West Virginia will remain a Common Core state.