Caught between Common Core and other state’s old standards

Caught between Common Core and other state’s old standards

(Mich.) Lawmakers in Michigan are poised to cut ties with any and all nationally-developed education standards just five months after the state adopted the Common Core-aligned science standards.

SB 826, introduced by Sen. Patrick Colbeck, R-Canton, was approved by the Senate Education Committee this week. The bill would require the state to adopt Massachusetts’ 2008-09 standards instead.

Strangely, Massachusetts, a major player in developing the Common Core, has not used the standards Colbeck is proposing Michigan adopt for its own students since 2010, when the Bay State officially adopted the Common Core.

Opponents of the bill have pointed out the irony of the situation.

“Michigan would be required to use outdated standards from Massachusetts that were replaced nearly 10 years ago, to better prepare students for success after high school,” according to a statement from the Michigan Coalition for High Student Standards. “Students need rigorous career- and college-ready expectations and deserve consistency and certainly within their classroom.”

Although more than half of states initially embraced the Common Core standards, many cited concerns about federal overreach, especially after the White House threw its support behind the curriculum goals and offered funding to help schools get there.

More recently, as states have furthered efforts to roll out the standards, issues surrounding the new assessments and high numbers of student opt-outs have become a major focus.

In Michigan, the State Board of Education adopted the Common Core State Standards in 2010, setting a goal of full implementation by the 2014-15 school year. The Next Generation Science Standards were adopted by the board in November of last year.

Both sets of standards have been met with mixed reviews. Supporters argue that students would be better prepared to enter higher education or the workforce, while opponents say implementation would be costly and set kids up for failure.

“Not surprisingly, Common Core has been a disastrous national experiment,” Sen. Phil Pavlov, R-St. Clair Township, chairman of the education committee, said in a statement. “States and local school districts — not the federal government — should be in charge of education policy.”

According to Pavlov, the prior Massachusetts standards are more familiar to parents, developmentally appropriate and are proven effective in preparing students.

Among the provisions listed in SB 826 are requirements that neither the Michigan Education Department nor the education board:

  • Penalize students, parents or schools if a child opts out of state-wide standardized testing;
  • Adopt any national or multi-state consortium standard from any source that will require Michigan to give up any control over development or assessments;
  • Implement new academic content until proposed changes have been approved by both houses of the Legislature;
  • Promote any religious or non-religious doctrine or promote discrimination against any religious beliefs or non-beliefs; or
  • Impose financial consequences on districts that adopt academic content standards other than the former Massachusetts standards adopted in the bill.

A state fiscal analysis of the bill found that the decision to replace the current Common Core standards with the Massachusetts standards, then develop and distribute new materials and assessments to local districts would have a significant negative fiscal impact on the education department and local schools.

Much of the likely costs would come as a result of Michigan having to carry them alone, due to the “prohibition against pooling the costs for research and development with other states,” concluded the committee’s fiscal analyst.

Five other lawmakers are co-sponsoring the bill.

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