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Local News

June 8, 2014

Changes come with Common Core repeal

DUNCAN — A decision to drop Common Core academic standards in Oklahoma has left a wake of questions about what will happen in the two years it takes to implement new standards.

Will dropping the standards change what students learn in the classroom or how teachers teach? What will the new standards look like?

The picture grew fuzzy after after Gov. Mary Fallin signed a bill Thursday that repeals the controversial standards and gives Oklahoma until 2016 to craft replacement standards in math and English. She follows South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who signed a bill on May 30 phasing in new standards by 2016. Indiana dropped Common Core earlier this year.

In explaining her move, Fallin said federal overreach has tainted what was once a state-led initiative to create rigorous standards meant to ensure students are ready for college or the workforce.

State Superintendent Janet Barresi came out in support of Fallin’s decision late Thursday, marking a change from her previous stance supporting the standards.

“At one time, as it was emerging from Republican and conservative ideas from individual states, I did support Common Core,” Barresi said in a news release. “As it has become entangled with federal government, however, Common Core has become too difficult and inflexible.”

Here’s a look at what the decision means:

What changes will your child see because of the repeal?

The effects could vary depending on how far along your district was in transitioning to Common Core. Districts ready to implement the standards must revert to old standards, while those not prepared will see few or no changes for now.

Districts should be able to keep using current textbooks and class materials. Teachers trained to use Common Core approaches in trying to instill a deeper understanding of content in students could still use some of those methods under new standards.

The biggest change could be what students are expected to do during testing.

Oklahoma will continue using its Priority Academic Student Skills standards, which many educators consider less rigorous than Common Core, before switching to new standards in 2016.

It’s unclear what this will mean for standardized testing since the last year PASS was fully implemented on a state assessment was 2010.

Oklahoma has been using a hybrid test combining PASS and Common Core standards, and was preparing to implement a test fully aligned to the Common Core starting next school year.

Oklahoma does not have a test right now that fully relies on PASS standards.

“We’re going to have to cobble a new test together,” state Department of Education spokeswoman Tricia Pemberton said.

It was not immediately clear how the new test will be built.

What will new standards look like?

It’s too early to say, but the law signed Thursday is written in a way that requires the new standards to be compared to Common Core to ensure they are not the same.

State Rep. Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City, who helped author the bill to repeal Common Core State Standards, said there could be similarities between the benchmarks. But “if we just put in the same standards again, we would probably see the same results,” Nelson said of the repeal. “It’s possible we could get newer, better standards.”

In Indiana, proposed new standards have been criticized for being too similar to Common Core.

Some Oklahoma lawmakers who support Common Core have said they believe the same thing may happen in here.

How much will replacing Common Core cost?

Drafting new standards for math and English could run at least $62,000, according to an Oklahoma State Department of Education estimate. That’s based on the $31,086 price tag for creating the current new social studies standards, which were not part of Common Core.

The state also has spent $2.5 million on training and professional development since 2010, including on Common Core.  That amount would have been spent on training even without Common Core.

The education department may also have to spend $3.8 million to hire new staff if Oklahoma loses its federal No Child Left Behind waiver as a result of dropping Common Core.

The agency estimates about 22 new employees will be needed to monitor schools’ academic progress and provide training and support to districts as required by NCLB regulations.

An extension of the state’s waiver is pending, and a decision from the U.S. Department of Education is expected by the end of June.

What would losing the No Child Left Behind waiver mean for your child?

A condition of No Child Left Behind is implementing rigorous standards by 2014-2015 to ensure students are prepared for college or the workforce.

The standards may fall short of that threshold, meaning the U.S. Department of Education could revoke the waiver.

That would mean about $27 million, or 20 percent, of Oklahoma’s federal Title I funding for high-poverty schools would be set aside for transportation and tutoring programs. The money is generally used to fund reading programs and hire teachers who work with students in low-income schools.

Fallin and Barresi have said with 42 percent of incoming college freshmen taking remedial courses, action is needed to make sure students are better prepared after high school graduation.

Oklahoma Watch is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that produces in-depth and investigative content on a range of public-policy issues in the state. For more Oklahoma Watch content, go to www.oklahomwatch.org

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