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5-31-15 and 6-1-15 Common Core Controversy

NJ Spotlight - Real Test After Christie’s Call To Drop Common Core: What Happens Next


Questions arise over who will devise new standards, how long it will take – and even whether it will really happen…Now what?

In the aftermath of Gov. Chris Christie’s announcement on Thursday that he no longer supports the Common Core State Standards, what are the administration’s plans for setting its own standards for New Jersey’s public schools?

Christie said the first step would be to form a commission, made up of parents and teachers, to review the current standards and make recommendations for changes by the end of the year.

But the state Department of Education on Friday wasn’t yet offering details of that plan, with a spokesman saying it would be “speculation” at this point.

The president of the State Board of Education – which only a year ago formally reiterated its support of the national Common Core standards – said he, too, was unsure about the next move. The board would ultimately have to adopt any new state standards.

“I have no idea what we’ll do, that’s the honest truth,” said board President Mark Biedron, who was appointed by Christie in 2011. “But this will be the top of the list. It can’t be business as usual, we need to move on this.”

Schools and educators were left in the dark about how to proceed, although some administrators said their staffs would continue to follow the current policy until they hear otherwise.

While disavowing the Common Core standards, Christie said the state would stay with the PARCC testing aligned to those standards – essentially leaving in place any curriculum or other instructional structures.

And some wondered if even the standards themselves could change under this administration.

“What’s the process to all this, and will people have sufficient time to adapt?” asked Edward Richardson, executive director of the New Jersey Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union.

“I’m telling you, there is a policy fatigue in schools,” he said in an interview Friday. “It’s been one after another of really major changes, and here comes another.”

The NJEA and several other of the state’s major education organizations were summoned to meet at the education department on Tuesday to hear further details, Richardson and other advocates said.

New Jersey is not the first state to take this zig-zagging path, with Republican governors in Louisiana and Arizona among those who have disavowed the standards in midstream.

But in other states that embarked on reviews like the one called for by Christie, the end result has mostly been standards similar to the Common Core – just rebranded as state-developed.

“My guess is that is what will happen in New Jersey,” said Patrick McGuinn, a politics professor at Drew University who closely follows federal education policy.

“Christie will appoint a high-profile commission to review the standards and make recommendations, and it will take long enough so that the politics around Common Core will have calmed down and/or Christie is out of the presidential race or out of the governor’s seat,” he said.ELATED STORIES





Still, Christie is the first governor to call for dropping the Common Core standards while staying with the testing, according to the PARCC consortium.

That left more than a few people befuddled.

A spokesman for the PARCC group said one is not a requisite of the other, but all of the PARCC states are also Common Core states. The few states that dropped PARCC either stayed with Common Core or withdrew from it later.

“I’m not aware of any state before New Jersey that moved away Common Core and later left PARCC,” said PARCC spokesman David Connerty-Marin.

The governor was hardly backing off the announcement on Friday, speaking at Belmar press event about his rationale for putting the standards in the hands of New Jersey parents and educators.

“We don’t have buy-in from parents, we don’t have buy-in from educators,” Christie said of the Common Core. “They feel as if it’s been imposed upon them from Washington, that their voice hasn’t been heard.

“And if you’re going to have the best local education you can have, you have to have your local educators and those families buying into what you’re trying to do.”


Star Ledger -Christie's flip on Common Core, and the growing character issue | Moran

Print Email By Tom Moran | Star-Ledger Editorial Board The Star-Ledger
Email the author | Follow on Twitter  on May 31, 2015 at 7:30 AM, updated May 31, 2015 at 9:13 AM

Gov. Chris Christie's latest love-note to the Republican base was so craven and phony that it's tough to find a single person who believes it was sincere.

And this was not a small matter, like his defense of pig torture with the veto of a ban on gestation crates.

This time, he flipped on Common Core, the educational standards that New Jersey's principals and teachers have been working hard to implement for the last five years. The governor on Thursday withdrew his support, saying Common Core is "not working" and leaving educators mystified about what the future holds. He sold them out.

And this time, his political maneuvering could do tangible harm to the children of this state, especially those who are already at risk.

So it's time to discuss the character issue. Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, is taking heat for his support of Common Core, but he's sticking with it. So is Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

They seem to have something Christie and the other Lilliputians in this race lack: Core convictions.

And as usual, Christie larded up his speech on Thursday with falsehoods.

He said Common Core was a federal program that President Obama is forcing on the states. In truth, these standards were developed by the states themselves, and are optional under federal law.

He suggested that New Jersey didn't take part in writing the standards. In fact, our educators were at the table.

He faulted Common Core for failing to close the achievement gap. In fact, a core purpose of these standards is to finally ensure that all American kids aim at the same target, and that progress can be measured. Christie offered nothing on his own to address the gap.

All this left educators fuming, feeling they were reduced to pawns in Christie's political game.

"In public education, unfortunately, there are often sharp twists and turns," said Freehold Superintendent Chuck Sampson, president of the Garden State Coalition of Schools. "Folks do initiative X, and some other power comes down and says, 'No, let's do it another way.'

"That's where teachers, educators and parents get jaded."

Who can blame them? Christie was once a leading cheerleader for these standards -- before he started running for president.

In our schools, districts have built lesson plans around these standards and trained teachers to work by them. They've had support from every major educational group, even the teachers union. This kind of consensus is rare in education.

But the Republican base doesn't like it, so Christie decided to dance.

It's telling that he made this move a month before his own advisory commission on testing and the Common Core standards is scheduled to make its report.

"I can't speak to that," said David Hespe, the acting commissioner of education and the chairman of that group. The poor guy.

The truth is that Christie didn't need any advice from education experts. A Gallup poll last year showed that 76 percent of Republicans oppose the standards. That's his lodestar.

Another Gallup poll showed that 60 percent of Republicans believe God created human beings within the last 10,000 years. These are the people who now have their paws in our education policy. Just saying.

The only good news is that Christie didn't actually order any big changes immediately. He only announced a change in direction.

And on Friday, Hespe was busy reassuring stressed educators. "In terms of any changes, we'll do it of course very gradually," he said.

The best hope for our kids is that educators who are working to implement Common Core ignore the governor. Which means we have entered a strange new zone.

Christie's presidential campaign has become a curse to this state. It didn't have to be that way. Kasich is not hurting Ohio by expressing interest.

The problem is that Christie has put us in second place, with his campaign at the top of his agenda. That is a character issue. And his flip on Common Core is just one piece of it.

Look at our decrepit transportation system. We have scaled back work on roads, and moved to increase bus and train fares again because the transit fund is broke. The only viable answer is to increase the gas tax, among the nation's lowest, as Christie's own transportation commissioner has said.

But the governor will not move. And even the Chamber of Commerce says that's damaging the economy.

Look at the pension crisis. Democrats will not make a deal without a millionaire's tax hike to soften the blow, given that Christie broke the core promise of the 2011 reform by shorting the funds. But that would kill off his faint changes of winning the GOP nomination.

So New Jersey is paralyzed, in honor of his presidential ambitions. His campaign is hurting the state's schools, its roads and bridges, and its fiscal health. (And I'm not even counting the cost to those pregnant pigs.)

The sad part is that Christie knows how to be an effective governor. He once was one. He has all the tools.

But he threw it away to reach for bigger things, as drunk on ambition as Icarus was when he flew too close to the sun with his wax wings.

Our best hope now is to contain the damage. And for educators, that means it's time to start ignoring the man's noise.

His days are numbered. And there is important work to be done in our schools.

Tom Moran may be reached at tmoran@starledger.com or call (973) 836-4909 (973) 836-4909. Follow him on Twitter @tomamoran. Find The Star-Ledger on Facebook.


New York Times - The Education Assassins

MAY 30, 2015 by Frank Bruni

A CONTEST for the least popular arm of the federal government would have many strong contenders.

There’s the soft, cuddly Internal Revenue Service. Also the National Security Agency, America’s Peeping Tom. And let’s not forget the Environmental Protection Agency, seen by many manufacturers as one big, mossy, bossy paean to regulation run amok.

But for politicians, in particular Republicans, another challenger comes into play: the Department of Education.

In a Republican presidential debate during the 2012 campaign, it wasn’t just on the list of “three agencies of government” that Rick Perry famously promised to eliminate. It was one of the two that he succeeded in naming before he stopped short, forgetting the third.

And it finds itself once again in Republican presidential candidates’ cross hairs, all the more so because of Common Core standards, supported by the education secretary, Arne Duncan, and cited by many excessively alarmed conservatives as a federal takeover of curriculum.

With the notable exception of Jeb Bush, whose Common Core advocacy is possibly his greatest vulnerability in the primaries, nearly all of the major Republican candidates have disparaged the standards, including, just last week, Chris Christie, who once supported them.

And most of these politicians have called for the downsizing of the education department. A few have followed Perry’s lead and said that they want it dead and gone. That’s the position of Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio has signaled a willingness to consider the department’s elimination.

It could use more friends these days even among Democrats. Senator Patty Murray, a Washington Democrat and a former preschool teacher, has joined forces with Senator Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican, to sponsor legislation that would leave the department and its secretary with much less influence over states.

There’d be no federal say, for example, in how (or if) public schoolteachers are evaluated. If the bill passes — and it has significant bipartisan support — the department would be a shadow of its former self.


Alexander supports that humbling even though he once ran the department, as the first President Bush’s secretary of education.

 “I believe there’s a federal role in education,” he told me recently, saying that the federal government affords an important bully pulpit for higher standards and more spending on students from poor families, to name two priorities. “But you don’t need a department. You need a president who cares about education and a Treasury Department that cuts the checks.” Much of the rest is needless red tape.

Mitch Daniels, the former governor of Indiana, didn’t wholly disagree. I approached him because he worked in George W. Bush’s administration, when the department’s power grew with No Child Left Behind, and he’s seen as a moderate Republican. He’s now the president of Purdue University.

“It’s not a ludicrous idea, honestly,” he said, referring to the abolition of the department. He noted that until 1979, when it was established as a cabinet-level agency, the country got along without it.

And now? “Let’s be gentle,” he said, “and say that we haven’t seen dramatic education improvement since the federal government set up shop.”

In many ways, no, we haven’t.

But there’s much more at work than the failings of the education department, which contributes only about 10 percent of funding nationally for K-through-12 schooling and has only so much impact on what happens in classrooms.

And there are as many reasons to fret over the department’s disappearance — or, more plausibly, its severe curtailing — as to root for it.

“When states are left on their own, low-income kids, kids with disabilities and minority kids always come last,” said Kati Haycock, the president of the Education Trust, an advocacy group in Washington. “Always. Federal resources help to counteract this tendency, but it’s more about federal leverage.”

There’s also plenty of evidence that when states are left to gauge the success of students, they may produce suspiciously upbeat results at odds with any nationwide measurement.

“Without federal involvement, states define their own standards of proficiency,” said Joel Klein, the former chancellor for New York City public schools. “Some states will do good stuff, but there will also be laggards and a lot of happy talk.”And as he and many other education advocates pointed out, that’s a national concern that deserves the attention of the federal government and of a discrete department sufficiently empowered to address it.

We’re a mobile country, with people routinely relocating across state lines, so Arkansas, Kentucky or Texas isn’t educating children only for its needs. Each is educating them for the entire country’s future, and because America’s companies compete in a global marketplace, the skills and erudition of tomorrow’s workers are a national issue, not a state one. As it stands now, even with the education department, the extent to which American schools are funded and controlled locally puts us out of step with most developed nations.

If the education department and its secretary vanished, how much would the bully pulpit that Alexander mentioned shrink? What signal would Americans involved in education — and Americans in general — get about education as a national priority?

Daniels applauded the current secretary, Duncan, as “a helpful voice” and “good conscience” over the last six and a half years for necessary reforms and standards. He wondered aloud if such a voice and conscience would have existed without an education department.

I wonder if federal funding for education — about $140 billion annually, which is a meaningful amount — would possibly stay the same. It goes against organizational and human nature to appropriate money without the sorts of conditions and accountability that are the province of the education department.

“We have to right-size the federal role,” said Michael Petrilli, the president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a think tank that supports school choice. “We absolutely have to give some power back to the states.”

But Petrilli stopped well shy of calling for the education department’s erasure, in part because he asked, “Would you abolish funding as well?” The department administers about half of that $140 billion.

It has been around long enough now that its outright elimination would be an extreme measure. Qualms with the way it functions are one thing; debates about its power and size are legitimate, even necessary. But what some of the Republican presidential candidates are doing is the equivalent of looking at a person who’s having a really bad hair day and recommending decapitation.

While more thoughtful conservatives like Alexander have sketched out how things might work without an education department, these firebrands are engaged in theater, not real debate. They’re after applause lines, not solutions.

And that’s one of my chief gripes with the battle cry to banish the Department of Education. It’s policy by sound bite. There’s too much of that already.


The Record - Dropping Common Core may alter little in N.J.

May 29, 2015, 7:05 PM    Last updated: Saturday, May 30, 2015, 9:54 PM


Governor Christie’s declaration that he will drop Common Core education standards to create ones that are more suited to New Jersey left open the possibility of change. But if other states are a predictor, that change may not be so sweeping.

Several states have moved to replace Common Core and have ended up with standards that look mostly the same, according to education groups. And educators and administrators in New Jersey say the state has made such a huge investment to roll out standards that a total reversal is unlikely.

“It’s in the materials. It’s in the tests. It’s in the teacher training. It’s taught in professional development,” said Michael Cohen, president of Achieve, an education non-profit that helped develop Common Core. “If standards change dramatically, you’d have to make those investments all over again.”

In 2010, New Jersey adopted Common Core along with more than 40 other states. The states repealing Common Core have done so largely in response to political backlash in the conservative GOP, which believes it infringes on states’ rights. Common Core was developed by state officials, with input from private education groups, but the federal government gives financial incentives for states to use the standards.

Related:  Christie hammers Common Core, but still supports much-criticized school testing

In his widely publicized speech Thursday, Christie said that Common Core — which is deeply unpopular among conservative Republicans — “simply isn’t working” and is sowing frustration. Teams of educators and parents will be convened to review the standards and recommend new, better ones that reflect the needs of local school districts, said Christie, a potential GOP presidential candidate.

Other states have made changes in favor of more local input.

Last year, Indiana lawmakers passed legislation dropping Common Core and ordered a review. Achieve found that the state’s new language arts standards “are virtually the same as the Common Core” and that math also has heavy similarities, said Cohen.

Tennessee also created new, similar standards, according to news reports. And Florida renamed its standards the Florida Standards, after making some changes — like the addition of cursive writing and a set of calculus standards — but critics said it seemed like just a rebranding.

Part of the reason that the standards turned out to be similar is that teachers, who were involved in the review process, generally like the Common Core, which defines what students should know in each grade in math and language arts, Cohen said.

In New Jersey, groups representing teachers, administrators and community colleges have also backed the standards, which they say are more challenging and encourage critical thinking. But some critics have argued that standards should be locally developed or that their schools were already high achieving and shouldn’t be forced to change.

Christie on Thursday said he agrees with critics that the standards are a federal overreach and should be developed locally. In his speech, Christie said it was “time to have standards that are even higher and come directly from our communities,” and “not [from] 200 miles away on the banks of the Potomac River.”

The New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association said educators have done five years of hard work to implement the standards, and that a reversal would be a disservice. The executive director, Patricia Wright, also said she expected tweaks and updates — but not a wholesale scrapping.

Christie also said he’ll keep the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers test that is tied to Common Core. Some see that as sign that the change isn’t genuine because the two are interconnected.

“Don’t be duped by the half-truth of a national headline that Governor Christie is abandoning Common Core standards that he wants voters to read outside New Jersey without mentioning New Jersey will still implement PARCC assessments. He’s buying time,” Carolee Adams, a Montvale resident and president of the conservative Eagle Forum of New Jersey, said in an email.

Jamie Gass, director of the Center for School Reform at the Pioneer Institute, also questioned the use of the test.

“If you have a test that tests Common Core — that in a way almost ensures that it will be taught in the classrooms,” said Gass, whose group is against Common Core.

But he said New Jersey could still choose to make big changes and that the governor’s actions are a step in the right direction.

“I think they have to figure it out in their review and revision process, and with any luck, they’ll do what the governor is suggesting: They’ll aim for something higher and better than Common Core,” he said.

Email: adely@northjersey.com