Education Week - June 12, 2013 - (Page 36)
36 EDUCATION WEEK
JUNE 12, 2013 www.edweek.org
State Opposition Jeopardizes Common-Core Future
Michigan set to halt
By Andrew Ujifusa
Activity in states reconsider-
ing their adoption of the Common
Core State Standards continues to
simmer, as some conservative supporters
of the initiative increasingly
worry that the federal government
has become the standards’ worst
Michigan is set to join Indiana as
the second state this year to institute
a so-called halt to common-core
implementation, but other efforts in
statehouses have run out of steam
or are still in the early stages.
Last week, the Michigan legislature
approved a budget that prohibits
the state department of education
from spending any money to
implement the common core and
the assessments tied to the new
Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican
who last month reiterated his support
for the common core in an
appearance with U.S. Secretary of
Education Arne Duncan, does not
have the line-item-veto power to
scrap that provision of the bill. As of
late last week, the budget was still
awaiting Gov. Snyder’s signature.
The state common-core spending
freeze in Michigan would officially
begin Oct. 1. But the provision is
set to create massive uncertainty at
the local level about what district
leaders should do next, officials say.
A spokesman for the state education
department, Martin Ackley,
wrote in an email: “This provision
in the bill will leave school boards,
administrators, teachers, and parents
with no clear direction on how
they continue planning their locally
developed curricula to meet the
There would be other major consequences
of the legislation, he
added, from jeopardizing the state’s
federal waiver under the No Child
Left Behind Act to reverting to
prior tests and content standards.
Mr. Ackley said Michigan has not
spent “much” on the common core
so far, and there is no specific line
item for it in the state budget.
Activists against the common
core in Michigan have said the
plan is really to “pause” commoncore
implementation and review
the standards more carefully. But
there is no restart date, so lawmakers
would have to pass another
bill at some point to revive
state spending on the standards,
said Amber Arellano, the executive
director of the Education TrustMidwest,
a research and advocacy
group in Royal Oak, Mich., that
supports the standards.
In her view, it will take Republi-
cans, who are divided over the standards
but control the legislature, to
revive the common-core push.
“We haven’t been as a state as
proactive as we need to be,” Ms.
Arellano said, referring to Michigan’s
supporters of common core.
Efforts to snuff out or hobble common-core
implementation in other
states have continued, with varied
degrees of success.
Kansas lawmakers opposed to
the standards first supported legislation
requiring the state to drop
them. But that bill failed. They
then duplicated the Michigan blueprint
by attempting to block the
use of state funds to implement the
Common Core State Standards,
as well as the Next Generation
Science Standards. That measure
passed the state Senate but failed
in the House of Representatives.
In Wisconsin, the joint committee
on finance approved budget language
late last month that would
require new hearings and a policy
review of the standards before implementation
And in North Carolina, Lt. Gov.
Dan Forest, a Republican, criticized
the common core in remarks
he posted last week on YouTube.
The method of blocking or de-
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laying the common core through
state budgets, instead of complicated
stand-alone bills, could
be attractive for legislators opposed
to the standards “when
that 11th-hour horse-trading
goes on,” said Michael McShane,
a research fellow in education
policy studies at the free-marketoriented
American Enterprise Institute
Mr. McShane also pointed to a
rising sentiment among some conservative
that the Obama administration’s
vocal support for the initiative is
“actually unbelievably harmful to
the common-core effort moving forward.”
The National Governors As-
provision in the
bill will leave
parents with no
clear direction ...”
Michigan Education Department
sociation and the Council of Chief
State School Officers led the drive
to craft the standards, which cover
English/language arts and math.
Even though anti-common-core
efforts at the state level remain
relatively small in number, the
anxiety over the federal role in
promoting them has been years
in the making, Mr. McShane said.
That sentiment has grown as
the standards became a part of
Race to the Top applications and
NCLB waivers, he said, and then
were touted in President Barack
Obama’s re-election bid.
The rhetoric and policy moves
have combined to create political
problems in states, particularly for
Republican governors who support
the common core, because many
people fail to see how the federal
government could actively support
yet not be in charge of the initiative,
Mr. McShane said.
“At a certain point, the Obama
administration and Department
of Education sort of saw what
was happening, and liked it, and
jumped on the bandwagon far too
forcefully for many on the right to
be able to stomach,” said Mr. McShane.
He described himself as a
supporter of what he deems the
standards’ benefits, yet someone
who is concerned about how well
they will be implemented.
An April proposal from U.S. Sen.
Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, to prevent
the federal government from
using money to develop commoncore
assessments or encourage
states to use the standards, should
actually have the support of many
common-core advocates, Michael J.
Petrilli, a senior vice president at
the Thomas B. Fordham Institute
in Washington, argued in a blog
post last month.
Who Holds the Reins?
But there’s no reason commoncore
supporters should want the
federal government to depart from
its current mode of actively supporting
the standards, given the
long-term benefits they will provide
for the country, said Lucille Davy, a
senior adviser at the James B. Hunt
Jr. Institute for Educational Leadership
and Policy in Durham, N.C.,
who supports the standards. She
also said that despite recent headlines,
common-core support remains
solid across state legislatures.
“I see no evidence of the feds taking
it over. I was in the room when
we talked about this in 2005 and
2006 and 2007,” said Ms. Davy, a
former education commissioner
in New Jersey, referring to states’
work on standards.
But some common-core champions
must still confront the uncomfortable
truth about who really
holds the reins, said Neal McCluskey,
the associate director for the
Center for Educational Freedom
at the libertarian Cato Institute in
Washington and an opponent of the
If states begin to consider breaking
from the principles binding the
standards together, such as if they
use different assessments or cutoff
scores, only the federal government
has the power to stop such a breakaway,
he said—by threatening to
withhold K-12 aid, for example.
“If you don’t have all those parts
together, all this national comparability
falls apart,” he said.
EXIT STRATEGY: Use an
tracker to explore efforts in state
legislatures to limit or withdraw
from the Common Core State
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 35
on tests so soon. Anticipating that
she would be accused of backing
away from accountability, Ms.
Weingarten said the moratorium
should be confined to the “transitional
years,” when school systems
are absorbing the required shifts.
Chris Minnich, the executive director
of the CCSSO, which helped
spearhead the common standards
effort alongside the nation’s governors,
said his members knew
months ago that the accountability
transition could prove difficult
and began discussing it internally.
When Ms. Weingarten called for a
moratorium, he said, many state
chiefs felt they wanted to make
their own positions clear.
What states need, he said, isn’t
a one-size-fits-all solution, but the
room to figure things out in ways
that fit them best.
“Most states are saying we don’t
need a pause or a moratorium,”
Mr. Minnich said. “Each state is in
a different position, and some need
flexibility to be able look at their
timelines and be smart about what
they are doing. We do agree states
need the time to do this well. At
the same time, we have come a
long way, and we don’t want to lose
“Nobody is looking for relief from
accountability,” said Tom Luna, Idaho’s
Mr. Luna said that while some
Idaho schools began commoncore-aligned
academic year, all schools in the
state aren’t expected to do so
In contrast, schools in North Caro-
lina just completed their first year
of such teaching, and the state administered
its first round of tests
reflecting the common core last
month, said schools Superintendent
June Atkinson. “That illustrates
why states need flexibility,” she said.
Navigating the Rules
Yet states are subject to an increasingly
outdated federal accountability
law that’s hardly flexible.
The No Child Left Behind Act,
signed into law in 2002, calls for annual
testing in reading and math
in grades 3-8 and once in high
school—with a rising set of goals
for schools that requires them to
get 100 percent of their students to
proficiency in those subjects by the
end of the 2013-14 school year.
As the deadline for reaching those
goals gets closer, more schools are
expected to fail to meet them, which
triggers an escalating set of responses,
such as having to provide
school choice to students. With new
tests, schools likely will fail to make
progress at an even faster rate.
Only 13 states are still subject
to the original NCLB law.
Even waivers that the Education
Department has awarded to
the remaining states don’t leave
much wiggle room during the
transition to new tests.
For instance, the waiver rules
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - June 12, 2013
Education Week - June 12, 2013
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NCLB Bills Split Over Federal Role in K-12
States Fold Teaching Into Preschool Rating Factors
Peer Review Quietly Put On Hold For State Assessment Systems
State Opposition Jeopardizes Common-Core Future
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Education Week - June 12, 2013