McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

March 26, 2014

Oklahoma teachers might be required to prepare for new standards

Eric Swanson Staff Writer adanewsreporter@cableone.net
www.theadanews.com

Ada —

   For the past three years, Ada City Schools officials have drawn up curriculum maps, trained teachers and taken other steps to implement the Common Core academic standards.

   They may have to go back to the drawing board if lawmakers approve a bill allowing the state to withdraw from Common Core and adopt new benchmarks instead.

   “We have taken teams of teachers from every building to training on these Common Core national standards during the summer,” curriculum director Paula Kedy said Tuesday. “They’ve given up their time. We’ve gone with them to make sure they know what this encompasses.

   “And now, to turn back that clock means we’re uncertain again about what they’re going to hand to us.”

   Kedy said school officials will strive to implement any new state-developed standards, just like they took steps to prepare teachers for Common Core.

 

Backing away

   Four years ago, Oklahoma joined 44 other states and the District of Columbia in adopting Common Core for kindergarten through 12th grade. The national standards are designed to ensure that all students graduate from high school with the tools they need to succeed.

   Now, Oklahoma and several other states are backing away from Common Core and considering replacing it with state-developed standards.

   On Monday, the state Senate Education Committee approved a version of a House bill that would replace Common Core standards for English, language arts and math with new requirements. The state Board of Education would have until Aug. 1, 2015, to devise and adopt the new standards.

   Under the bill, student tests tied to the new standards would be implemented by the 2017-18 school year.

   The bill bars the Board of Education from approving contracts with any federal agency or private entity that would limit or eliminate state control over education standards.    Sen. Susan Paddack said she dislikes the bill for several reasons, including its August 2015 deadline for developing a new set of standards.

   “My thoughts are that it’s a very ill-considered bill in that it’s not realistic,” she said.

   Paddack, D-Ada, also said the Legislature adopted a variety of educational reforms in the past but has not given school officials enough time to see if the changes are working.

   The substitute for House Bill 3399 passed out of committee on an 11-0 vote and will go to the full Senate. If the Senate approves the measure, it will go back to the House for consideration of Senate amendments.

   HB 3399 would ensure that Oklahoma retains control over educational standards and any associated tests, said Sen. Josh Brecheen, a Coalgate Republican who wrote the Senate version of the bill.

   “It would be of Oklahoma’s own choosing what those standards and assessments look like,”  he said.

   If HB 3399 becomes law, Oklahoma would be the second state to abandon Common Core math and reading standards. Indiana took the lead earlier this week, when Republican Gov. Mike Pence signed a law allowing the state to withdraw from Common Core and develop homegrown standards instead.

   Common Core was developed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers through Achieve Inc., which was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, who heads the National Governors Association, has supported Common Core in the past.

   Raising educational standards and making classes more rigorous are key to preparing Oklahoma students for college or careers after high school, Fallin said Monday in a news release. She said that Oklahomans must take the lead in developing new standards instead of ceding control to the federal government or outside groups.

   “I support passing legislation that increases classroom rigor and accountability while guaranteeing that Oklahoma public education is protected from federal interference,” Fallin said. “While House Bill 3399 is still a work in progress, my hope is that it will accomplish these goals and ultimately be signed into law.”

 

Waiting

   In the meantime, Ada school officials are waiting to see whether HB 3399 becomes law.

   Superintendent Pat Harrison said he thought the bill was more about politics than about raising education standards.

   “It’s not necessarily that the standards were bad,” he said. “It’s ‘I’ve had enough of them telling us what to do. They don’t need to be in our business, and so we’re going to do our own.’”

   Harrison said he would not be surprised if the state-developed standards borrow heavily from Common Core. He said the August 2015 deadline for developing new standards may indicate that the state would take the Common Core requirements as a model.

   “That leads me to believe that maybe they’re not gong to change all that much,” he said. “It’s just going to say ‘Oklahoma Academic Standards’ on it as opposed to ‘Common Core.’”

 

  Reach Eric Swanson at adanewsreporter@cableone.net.

 

   EDITOR’S NOTE: The Tulsa World contributed to this report.