Tennessee Didn’t Repeal Common Core, They Rebranded It


Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam signed a bill that started a “review and replacement” of the Common Core State Standards in August. Even when the bill was signed the result was uncertain:

It’s unclear whether the process set out by the new law will result in a significant step away from Common Core, or if it will represent a rebranding with minor tweaks. Tennessee school superintendentsin February sent state lawmakers a letter backing Common Core, although support for the standards has been waning among teachers – a September survey showed most Tennessee teachers now oppose Common Core.

I had concerns when the bill first passed the Tennessee House that it still left the State Board of Education in charge of approving the new standards. There wasn’t any legislative oversight to the process.

As the review committees were put together there was not unity on the end goal – a revision of the Common Core or  repeal?

Last week’s fiery press release by Ramsey, who named three people to the panel, refers in the headline to the “Common Core repeal committee” and then states in the release: “The committee was established by the Tennessee General Assembly for the explicit purpose of repealing and replacing the Common Core Standards established in 2010.” He described one of his appointees, Shirley Curry, as a “conservative activist” and invoked “Tennessee values” as being central to the need for an academic overhaul.

By contrast, this week’s statement by Haslam, who appointed four people to the group, called the same body a “Standards Recommendation Committee” and never mentions the words “Common Core” or “repeal.”

“We are committed to obtaining the highest possible standards in Tennessee’s schools, and I am grateful to these dedicated educators for agreeing to serve in this effort,”Haslam said in a more muted statement. “All Tennesseans want the best for our students, and this process will build on the historic gains we have made in education.”

Haslam stated that his problem was more with the name Common Core, than the actual standards themselves:

If the latter, the standards will undoubtedly be rebranded, as Haslam acknowledged earlier this year that the name “Common Core” is problematic for many groups. “I just realized that fixing the brand is too hard,” Haslam told editors and publishers at a Tennessee Press Association meeting in February. “There’s certainly hills you should die on, but dying on a brand that people feel that way about, I don’t think is smart.”

Last fall, Haslam initiated a year-long review process to scrutinize the current enhanced standards, so that the standards, which were fully implemented during the 2012-2013 school year, do not get gutted alongside the Common Core label.

So now The Tennesseean declares that the Common Core has been “phased out.”

The state developed a more rigorous review process to assess the standards, including two online public reviews, educator review and legislative input. The review process took almost two years.

“We started with the current state standards. From there we executed an unprecedented transparent, comprehensive review and replacement process,” State Board of Education Executive Director Sara Heyburn said.

“The results were a set of new, Tennessee-specific standards brought to us by the Standards Recommendation Committee, whose members were appointed by the governor, lieutenant governor, and the speaker of the House of Representatives and confirmed by the General Assembly,” Heyburn said.

Starting with the Common Core is the problem. A true repeal would set the standards and the committees would start from scratch. This process would just lead to tweaks. Granted there may be some improvements, but let’s be clear this wasn’t a repeal and Tennessee has adopted Common Core lite sans the name Common Core.

A Common Core Bill Passes West Virginia House

West Virginia State Capitol Building - Charleston, WV Photo credit: O Palsson (CC-By-2.0)

West Virginia State Capitol Building – Charleston, WV
Photo credit: O Palsson (CC-By-2.0)

The West Virginia House of Delegates passed HB 4014 on Friday by a 73 to 20 vote margin. As it is currently written the bill does a number of things (list courtesy of A.P. Dillion):

  • Puts off using the Next Generation Science Standards until 2017
  • Introduces digital learning
  • Creates an “Academic Standards Evaluation Panel”
  • Rescinds the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)  with the CCSSO and NGA
  • Withdraws West Virginia from the SBAC
  • Prohibits the State Board of Ed  from adopting or using Common Core aligned tests
  • Orders the State Board of Ed to review their state summative testing scheme
  • Grants parents the ability to opt their child out of testing
  • Prohibits the ‘discipline, punishment, or grade reduction’ of any student who opts out
  • Testing can’t take more than 2% of a student’s yearly instruction time

As with any bill the devil is in the details. What will the “Academic Standards Evaluation Panel” do? Dillion provided the description from the bill, the key section is below:

Using the West Virginia College – and – Career – Readiness Standards for English Language Arts and Mathematics as a framework, review and revise the standards, including additions, deletions, and edits based upon empirical research and data to ensure grade-level alignment to the standards of states with a proven track record of consistent high-performing student achievement in English Language Arts on the National Assessment of Educational Progress and in Mathematics, on both the National Assessment of Educational Progress and Trends in Math and Science Study international Assessment.

Remove Common Core strategies that require instructional methods.

Where have we seen this before? In every state that offered a review and replace bill who ended up with a rebrand. Could West Virginia end up with better standards? Yes, but it’s not encouraging to see that the current standards – Common Core math and ELA standards will be the framework used as they “review and revise.”

I don’t want to bash the bill, knowing the players involved I think their intentions are noble, and if some good people land on the “Academic Standards Evaluation Panel” they could end up with better standards. There are also a number of other positive steps in this bill, especially related to assessments, that we can laud. Over all I would say this is a positive bill.

It heads to the West Virginia Senate whose leadership has been known to tank good Common Core bills, the last one was a straightforward repeal bill they gutted until it did nothing. The review process implemented by the State Board of Education has also been a joke. This bill at least requires the state to leave Smarter Balanced and break rescind the MOU they had with the NGA and CCSSO. Hopefully that language, and the assessment language, survives the West Virginia Senate.

Common Core Under the Edwards Administration in Louisiana


Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards is in his second month in office and it is apparent he will not fight Common Core like his predecessor Bobby Jindal did. He has already dropped the lawsuits the Jindal administration initiated, but in doing so caused some turmoil with the state’s Attorney General as The News Star reported earlier this month.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said Thursday he will drop the appeal of a Bobby Jindal-era federal lawsuit seeking to block Common Core nationally, but new Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said late Thursday that would be his decision to make.

“As Louisiana attorney general, I am intervening in this case, and I will determine if it will proceed,” Landry said.

Richard Carbo, the governor’s communications director, fired back.

“As far as the office of the governor is concerned, this case is over,” Carbo said. “If the Attorney General feels the need to pursue further litigation, he will proceed using his own resources.”

The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is set to vote March 5th on proposed revised ELA and Math academic standards. The review committee took the Common Core State Standards as the starting point and went from there.

I have NOT done a through review of these standards, but from scanning through the crosswalk document for the ELA standards it appears that what was mostly done was a revision of 81 standards, of those I read it appeared to be mainly tweaking the language of the original standards. This represents roughly 12% of the ELA standards. It still places an emphasis on information text so I can’t say that I’m very encouraged by what I’ve seen.

I could see there was definitely more work done on the math standards as I perused the crosswalk document. There were three new standards added. One elementary math standard was moved to a different grade. The high school math standards were reordered to reflect Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II to do away with integrated math which I believe is a good change. Three standards were deleted. There were considerably more standards revised than what I saw with the ELA standards – 137 in all.  I think it’s unfortunate that like Common Core the draft Louisiana math standards stop at Algebra II.

The ELA standards appear to be closer to a rebranding while the math standards had more work done. I’ll let others better qualified judge the quality of the new standards. All of this may be for naught if they continue to use PARCC as an assessment anyway.

I know many Louisiana parents were frustrated with how the review process went. I’m interested to hear from Louisiana parents, what are you hearing about the new standards? What is your opinion of them?

Update: J.R. Wilson, a TAE advocate and math expert, made these observations in an email after looking at the K-8 2015-2016 Louisiana Standards, Common Core State Standards and draft standards for Louisiana in math:

At the second grade level, the three sets of standards are presented in the same order and are identical.  Absolutely no changes, additions, or omissions. 

At the kindergarten level, there are three standards that differ from the Common Core State Standards slightly but not significantly.  One standard has been added for LA that is not in the CCSS.  In essence they are the same standards with much identical wording except for three standards.  The difference is minor and negligible.  The rest of the standards are presented in the same order and are identical. 

Like the Common Core, the LA standards don’t require the standard algorithm until grade 4. 

New York Plans to Test on Revised Standards By 2018-2019 School Year

New York State Flag

It appears that New York may be repeating the mistake made with Common Core – a rush to test what was hastily implemented. The New York Board of Regents announced a timeline for the review, drafting, implementation and testing of revised educational standards.

This comes after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced recommendations made by the task force that he assembled.

The Albany Times-Union reports:

Once they have a draft set of standards in place for all grade levels, a public comment period will be held from July through October. Feedback will be collected through an online survey and outreach to groups like the New York State Parent Teacher Association, business councils, and ELA and math professional organizations, among others. The state Education Department will also create a mailbox for ongoing feedback and comments throughout the revision process.

Once feedback is in, the standards review committees will make final tweaks to the standards and submit a final set to the Board of Regents for consideration at its November 2016 meeting and adoption as early as its December 2016 meeting.

Starting in 2017, local districts will begin adjusting curriculum to reflect the changes. This phase will rely on each district’s teachers to develop curriculum materials, but also will include guidance and help from the state Education Department.

By summer 2017, teachers should start receiving training and professional development around the new standards and curriculum so they can be ready to start teaching the new standards in the fall of 2017. This would allow students to have a full year of instruction based on the new standards and curriculum by the time assessments are given in the 2018-19 school year.

Essentially, according to the article referenced above, the key to the drafting the standards drafting is that they are using the Common Core State Standards as a starting point, revising from there and “any questionable standards would be scrapped or revised to better reflect the will of New York educators and stakeholders.”

This is just a drawn out rebrand. There is adequate time given for public comment on the first draft, but unfortunately it looks like it will be online feedback only. No forums? It looks like they plan specific outreach to special interest groups, but not parents – the ones who have been pushing this reform. Reaching out to the state PTA doesn’t cut it. Also there will be no public feedback on the standards after the “tweaks” are made.

This reminds me too much of how the Common Core was drafted.  Then after a year of implementation we’re back to high-stakes testing on rebranded standards.

New Jersey’s Upcoming Common Core Rebrand

new-jersey-state-flagA Common Core Review Group ordered by Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) started its work this month.  In three months we’ll know how New Jersey plans to rebrand Common Core.

It would be great if they would jettison it, but as recent history has shown us states that engage in a review process, for the most part, change very little.  So I’m not going to hold my breath.

I am especially doubtful as the state and Governor Christie remains committed to using PARCC as their statewide assessment.  So there is little to no chance that standards will be changed.

I hope I’m wrong, but I doubt that I am.

NJSpotlight.com reports:

Twenty-four people make up the group given the task of following up on Gov. Chris Christie’s call to rethink the Common Core State Standards for New Jersey – and then there’s the 70 other people named to subcommittees.

Starting this month, and over the next three months, they will have a busy schedule as they try to come up with revisions to the state’s standards to meet Christie’s sudden – and some say politically driven — dictate this summer that the Common Core Standards aren’t good enough for New Jersey.

A vast majority of the members of the so-called Standards Review Committee work in K-12 public schools, but at least four more members are parent representatives, while two represent business groups and another five are from the realm of higher education. Three of the members are school district superintendents, and one is a leader from charter schools.

…Christie wants the committee to recommend revisions to the standards in math and language arts by the end of the year, a deadline he set when he declared that he was backing off his support of the Common Core, saying it’s not rigorous enough and that such academic standards should be developed locally.

Read more.

Arkansas Parents Keep Watch Over Your Upcoming Common Core Review

arkansas flagArkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson on Wednesday recommended in a letter that the Arkansas State Board of Education proceed with their review of the Common Core State Standards using the recommendations of his Common Core executive council.

Arkansas’ revisions of standards will follow a formal and public review, assessment, and public comment procedure. Hutchinson directs the State Board of Education to:

  • provide ample time to review and revise standards as needed,
  • change the name of the standards, if needed,
  • facilitate communication between the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE), school districts, and parents regarding standards,
  • allow other bodies (e.g., legislature) to review recommendations as needed, and
  • safeguard student data.

Some things the key decision-makers need to consider.

  • Changing the name if you don’t change the standards is simply playing games with parents and citizens who have spent the time fighting against Common Core.  If you’re not going to be serious about changing the Common Core be honest about it and don’t bother changing the name.  Parents do expect different standards however so the end process should be standards that look vastly different than Common Core.
  • Do not follow the path of Kentucky and Louisiana having parents to go through an arduous public comment process online.  Make it simple, don’t expect your parents provide comments and a rewrite of each standard they object to.  Let parents comment on the Common Core math and ELA standards as a whole.
  • Have face-to-face public comment opportunities with parents, teachers and taxpayers throughout the state at times they are available to come.  The State Board should meet at different locations and don’t have meetings during the day or right when the work day ends.  That does not help facilitate good participation. These meetingssd should happen at night.
  • Look at and seriously consider quality standards from other states that predate Common Core.  I would suggest Massachusetts’ ELA standards and California’s math standards.
  • It would be best to start from a clean slate assuming all of the standards need to go, rather than through a process that seeks to just “tweak” individual standards.
  • Also measures to protect student data in the state should not rely upon FERPA as a guide as that federal law has essentially been gutted.

And the Louisiana Common Core Review Narrative Begins

Photo credit: Brandon Grasley (CC-By-2.0)

Photo credit: Brandon Grasley (CC-By-2.0)

The same day I published my story about the Louisiana Common Core review AP published a story that indicates what the narrative is going to be.

“Louisiana parents must not be that upset at Common Core, look at how few of them participated in the public comment period.”

AP writes:

Despite controversy about Louisiana’s use of the Common Core education standards, only a few hundred people have submitted comments for a public review process of the English and math benchmarks.

The Department of Education said Monday that during the first month of an ongoing comment period, 723 individuals sent in 29,809 “pieces of feedback” on the multistate standards of what students should learn at each grade level.

Sixty percent of commenters described themselves as educators, 23 percent as parents, 7 percent as district or school administrators and the rest as members of the public or other education institutions.

I can see the Louisiana Department of Education saying, “See, only 166 parents care! We should leave this standards stuff totally up to the professionals.”   With the way the public comment was set up I’m shocked that 166 participated, to expect the general public to provide comments and an alternative standard for each benchmark they disapprove of simply discourages participation.

The Louisiana Common Core Review Is Not Parent-Friendly

louisiana-state-flag-2The Louisiana Department of Education has launched its 2015-2016 review of the Louisiana math and ELA standards that are aligned to Common Core.

You can find the review portal here.  I wanted to highlight some of the instructions that are raising some eyebrows.

The standards in this application are arranged by subject and grade level. To review a standard, click the plus sign beside the standard to see more detailed information. You may provide feedback on standards by clicking (a checkbox icon) to the right of each standard.

In your evaluation of each standard, you will have the following options:

  1. I agree with the Standard as written. (comments are optional)
  2. The Standard should be in a different grade level. (grade selection is required)
  3. The Standard should be broken up into several, more specific Standards. (suggested rewrite is required)
  4. The Standard should be rewritten. (suggested rewrite is required)
  5. Delete this Standard. (comments are required)

To find particular standards to review, you may also search for a particular concept in the search bar.

If you believe a new standard needs to be created, please click “Suggest a New Standard” in the footer of each page in the portal to submit an email with your suggestion.

You may leave and come back to the Louisiana Standards Review Portal at any time, but you will only be able to submit suggestions on a particular standard once per electronic device.

There is no way for parents to give general feedback about the standards in whole.  If you like a standard you don’t have to leave a comment, but for everything else it requires a comment or for the person reviewing to provide a rewrite.

That’s a rather onerous way of soliciting feedback from the general public.

I received a rather terse email about this issue from Sara Wood who is a parent-activist in Louisiana  She wrote:

Not all public comment is treated equally!  If you like the standards, then you just choose that and comment is optional but if you do not like the standards, well then you better get some professional teaching development because you have to go through very specific hoops in order for your review to count and such hoops include requiring you to identify the standard specifically that you do not like, required commentary and recommendation for a replacement standard.  CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS GARBAGE?  I AM A PARENT!! I AM NOT A TEACHER.     I only know that I want to comment as to the whole darn thing and how it affected my children negatively to the extent that I pulled my children to homeschool them.  But guess what?  That is not an option!!! We cannot even check a box to state that we do not like the standards.  How the heck am I supposed to follow the very meticulous instructions in order to have my public comment counted? I cannot and therefore my concerns will not be counted and do not forget that you have to fill out so much information that many teachers also feel that there will be retribution for coming out against the standards because so many schools and parishes have invested money in the Common Core.  So the likely result will be that this process for public comment will help to ensure that we just end up with a laundered version of the same crap…Common Core legitimized through a faux public comment period showing like so many other states that the majority just love Common Core!!  I cannot express how much of a blow this is to an already frustrating and tiring situation for parents and children.  What a freaking joke on a not so funny subject!!  So sad but so typical!!

Apparently Kentucky had a similar process that led to predictable results… Oh the public just loves Common Core!   Louisiana is headed toward the same result.


A Self-Appointment to Missouri’s Common Core Work Group?

MissouriStateFlag1An educator from Columbia, MO decided that despite what Missouri Speaker of the House Tim Jones said he was staying on the Common Core Standards work group created after HB 1490 was signed into law in July requiring the state to review and replace the Common Core.

The Kansas City Star first reported that Jones appointed Nick Kremer, a language arts specialist from Columbia Public Schools, to the English Language Arts work group.  Upon learning that Kremer did meet the qualifications listed in the law, Jones directed him to resign.  Kremer essentially said, nope I’m staying.

Nick Kremer, a language arts coordinator at Columbia Public Schools, has been a supporter of the national standards, which Jones and other Republicans are seeking to revamp. Jones said he asked Kremer to leave the panel after learning he does not have the required 10 years of teaching experience.

While Kremer acknowledges he hasn’t spent 10 years in a classroom, he says he does have that much experience when his years as an administrator are included. Asked by The Associated Press whether he thought his position on Common Core was why Jones wants him to leave, Kremer said he didn’t know. He said he would stay on the committee, which is looking into English standards for junior high and high school students, “between now and when the judiciary interprets the law to indicate that the speaker does have the statutory authority to replace me mid-process.”

It appears to me that this Common Core advocate wants to bring his agenda to the work group, and it is troubling that as a language specialist he doesn’t seem to know how to read.

Political appointees can be replaced unless the state’s code or constitution says otherwise.  Kremer is in a slot that Jones is responsible to fill and he can appoint whomever he likes in that slot.  This isn’t rocket science.  Even if he was replacing him solely because of his position on Common Core he has the ability to do just that.

Missouri Education Watchdog reports that perhaps some resolution was found.  Kremer can still attend, but he won’t be an official member which I take to mean he won’t have a vote.  He is being replaced by Lou Ann Saighmann.  Jones issued the following statement:

In an effort to resolve the issues that have emerged in the workings of the 6-12 English Language Arts Workgroup, I have appointed Ms. Lou Ann Saighmann to bring her knowledge and experience to the group as they move forward with the process of developing Missouri-based education standards. I made this decision pursuant to the authority granted to me under Article 3 Section 18 of the Missouri Constitution and Rule 22 of the Rules of the Missouri House of Representatives, and in compliance with the experience requirements outlined in HB 1490.

I appreciate Mr. Nick Kremer’s interest in participating in this process. Contrary to what some members of the media have reported, Mr. Kremer is more than welcome to continue participating, as any member of the public is, with this particular work group or any other work group. However, because we learned that Mr. Kremer was not qualified pursuant to the specific requirements of HB 1490, his appointment as an official member of the workgroup was therefore “void” under the law requiring us to fill this void with Ms. Saighmann pursuant to the Constitution and Rules of the Missouri House.  I look forward to the recommendations that will ultimately come forward from this group and the others that are diligently working to produce effective standards for Missouri’s system  education.

This makes Kremer the first self-appointed member of a government commission or group that I’m aware of.

What Will Bill Haslam Actually Do About Common Core?

Just in case you missed this story The Tennessean reported that Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam’s tone on Common Core is changing.

“For me, it shouldn’t be about the name and what we call it, the battle should be about: Are we going to have high standards or not and what exactly should those standards be?” Haslam said.

Haslam delivered that message in Nashville as he sat next to Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado, in town for a Denver Chamber of Commerce leadership visit. Haslam’s latest comment follows others in which he called for a “full vetting” of Common Core standards, with a legislative session looming and the fate of the controversial standards expected to take center stage.

The tone is far removed from where the Tennessee governor stood just 10 months ago, when he endorsed the standards wholeheartedly by name. “Common Core is critical to the progress the state has made, and he’s committed to making sure we continue that momentum,” a spokesman said back then.

His latest comments seem to suggest that he’s not necessarily opposed to scrapping the name, at least, so long as the standards are robust.

Now changing the name will not do a blasted thing, but it is clear that Haslam is under pressure to address the increasingly unpopular standards.  This fall, in a shock poll, 56% of Tennessee teachers say they want to abandon the standards.  Will he actually do something tangible or will he just obfuscate the issue by just changing the name?  He says he wants to do a review, but do so after the 2015 legislative session which seems to be his way of delaying the inevitable as many legislators in his party are ready to repeal.