Pennsylvania will revert to its state tests rather than use national Common Core tests, according to Pennsylvania Department of Education spokesman Tim Eller. Lawmakers are also considering repealing the entire initiative.
Concerns voiced by residents and the state legislature prompted the switch, Eller said. The state will use a combination of Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) and Keystone Exams instead. This switch will “likely be completed in fall 2013,” he said.
But “this is the governor’s office playing politics,” said Peg Luksik, a former teacher and founder of Founded on Truth, which opposes Common Core’s national math and English benchmarks for K-12. “The Keystones are all in the process of being aligned with the Common Core State Standards, so the testing consortia are irrelevant, really. The tests are what matters.”
Pennsylvania adopted the national Common Core standards on July 1, 2010—a month after they were published. Since then, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) has augmented them but has not explained what is different about the Pennsylvania version, which has created some confusion, Luksik notes.
The state legislature’s Democratic caucus in May came out against both the state tests and Common Core, saying the Core needed more funding to implement and PDE had changed state tests without required legislative approval. In response, Gov. Tom Corbett (R) temporarily halted the standards’ implementation pending further review and information from PDE.
Repeal Bills Coming
In August, five bills hit the Pennsylvania House as a legislative package to stop Common Core.
- House Bill 1551 prevents further implementation of Common Core 60 days after the bill becomes law;
- House Bill 1552 exempts private, religious, and home schools from Common Core;
- House Bill 1553 prohibits the Pennsylvania Department of Education from imposing a national standardized assessment on any student in the Commonwealth;
- House Bill 1554 prohibits the transfer of individual student data to the federal government; and
- House Bill 1555 creates an advisory committee to study Common Core before implementation.
“Common Core is becoming a nationwide issue,” said state Rep. Will Tallman (R-Abbotstown), HB 1551’s sponsor. Pennsylvania has seen a broad, bipartisan uprising against the Common Core Standards, with two state teachers’ unions also opposed, he noted. He sees the Common Core as “tying a teacher’s hands.”
Rep. Stephen Bloom (R-Carlisle), HB 1552’s sponsor, said he is concerned Common Core’s near-monopoly over K-12 education would force private and homeschool educators into “government-dictated curricula and assessments that violate their academic freedom and rights of conscience.”
Pennsylvanians opposed to Common Core, who packed a May hearing on the topic, are still “trying to get some kind of a feel from the legislature,” said Marilyn Reed, a cofounder of Pennsylvanians Against Common Core. “There are people out there just now hearing about this. Everyday people are signing up on our Facebook page. We need to keep moving forward.”
Image by Penn State.