Common Core is causing many lawmakers in about twelve states to become more involved in their states own educational academic standards. There have been several states where legislators have begun placing new restrictions on the state boards of education, which usually write and update academic standards. And in other states, lawmakers have allowed for greater scrutiny of standards, which are requiring proposals to receive public vetting.
The state of Oklahoma is an example of an educational system that has received an extreme makeover involving the standards process and the state’s lawmakers have passed a law that allows them the ability to rewrite any standards they don’t want or like. In May of this year, Oklahoma lawmakers voted to throw away the Common Core State Standards, before the national academic standards were set to take effect. The state’s lawmakers sent its board of education to come up with and write a set of entirely new standards by 2016.
Several people feel that Oklahoma’s decision is not a wise one, among them is Reggie Felton of the National School Boards Association. He said that he believes it is an overreaction for state legislatures to believe that they can come up with their own academic standards and that they don’t have the technical capacity to do so. “Politicians shouldn’t set academic standards,” said Felton.
Academic standards are developed to spell out the skills and knowledge that students are expected to learn by the end of any given grade level. These standards are adopted at the state level, whereas curriculum decisions are made by the individual school districts and determines how to teach and the materials used to teach. It is usual for State Boards of education members to consult with educators and subject matter experts as they develop academic standards.
Oklahoma State Rep. Jason Nelson, who co-wrote the new Oklahoma law argues that academic standards have always been political and his legislations will now make the process more democratic. Nelson goes on to explain that with this new law they are allowing the voice of the public to be heard. Wisconsin lawmakers also tried to pass a similar bill in April, the effort stalled however when the state’s schools superintendent campaigned against it, calling the entire effort, “craziness”.
Many people are worried about legislators debating on science standards, such as evolution, creationism, climate and climate change. Or, debating social studies standards such as civil liberties and civil rights, genocide, religious history and political involvement. Superintendents like Tony Evers worries that the changes in Oklahoma invite politicians to meddle in classrooms. Politicians obviously disagree.
One thing is for sure, for these new standards to be passed, lawmakers must state what is wrong with the standards and make the argument, then both houses have to pass any changes by a joint resolution, and then the governor has to sign it. Oklahoma Rep. Ann Coody, a former teacher and Common Core supporter made a valid point when she said, “We all think we know how to run education because we went to school. Well, there are definite ways to teach, definite ways to learn, and those who spend their lives learning it and practicing it ought to be the ones we rely on for this.”
The changes in Oklahoma and other states have come about among criticism that the public was excluded from the processes that led forty five states and the District of Columbia to adopt the Common Core standards in math and reading by 2010. And in most of those cases, the Common Core standards were adopted by agreement in each state among the governor, chief state school officer and also the state boards of education. Lawmakers in Oklahoma believe that developing their own standards will help involve the public when they were previously excluded. I, like many other concerned people, would worry about legislators deciding what my children will learning in school and the standards that should be implemented. I worry that a political agenda would become first priority and not what is in the best interest for the children and with that aspect, I feel that experienced educators would be better qualified developing these standards. I do, however, understand the anger that many have felt not being included in the initial process and decision making when Common Core was introduced and quickly accepted by so many states.