In early May 2016, the New Jersey State Board of Education approved the New Jersey Student Learning Standards, the revised and renamed Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Gov. Chris Christie (R) ordered the Standards Review Committee to review CCSS in July 2015, saying they were “simply not working.”
Even with the revisions, 84 percent of CCSS will remain in place, and only about 230 of the 1,427 standards will be changed. “Some of those changes would result in moving a standard — like when students should be able to distinguish long and short vowels — from one grade level to another … [while] others involve editing the language of a standard to clarify or enhance it, according to the state,” wrote Adam Clark in NJ.com.
Most of the significant changes apply only to the English standards, while the mathematics standards remain relatively untouched. The revised standards will be implemented beginning with the 2017–18 school year.
The New Jersey Common Core standards have become less and less popular each year. In the Garden State, the unpopularity of Common Core contributed to over 130,000 students opting out of the CCSS-aligned Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test in 2016. Fifteen percent of state 11th graders opted out of the test in 2015. By the spring of 2010, 24 states and the District of Columbia had joined the PARCC consortium, but concerns over Common Core led all but six states and Washington, DC to withdraw from the assessment.
“If [Christie] is genuinely interested in new standards, the state must abandon the PARCC fiasco, which is taking a terrible toll on the quality of instruction and student learning in New Jersey,” Wendell Steinhauer of the New Jersey Education Association told NJ.com.
The New Jersey Student Learning Standards, while removing the Common Core name, retain the bulk of the previous Common Core standards. Instead of implementing true reform, the Standards Review Committee decided to just make cosmetic changes.
Garden State lawmakers should act on their own to implement as much meaningful education reform as possible, and they should fully replace Common Core with higher-quality, state-controlled academic standards and tests not funded by the federal government, such as Massachusetts’ pre-Common Core standards. Another policy that has bipartisan support nationally, and could be implemented quickly, is a reduction in time students spend on standardized testing each year. Lawmakers also should consider implementing mastery-based education, where students advance according to the knowledge they have acquired as demonstrated by progressively more difficult tests, over seat-based education, where students move to the next grade level not by what they have learned but by how many academic hours they have accumulated over the past school year.
The following documents provide more information about Common Core.
Replacing Common Core: Choices and Tradeoffs
In this Policy Brief by The Heartland Institute President Joseph Bast and Research Fellow Joy Pullmann, the authors argue while Common Core standards should be repealed, states face several replacement options, each of which has important trade-offs that must be considered.
Common Core and the Centralization of American Education
This collection of essays edited by Lindsey Burke at The Heritage Foundation argue although national education standards may provide useful information to state and federal policymakers, they have driven curriculum and pedagogy in a way that dissatisfies parents. Each of the essays contained in this short compendium concludes U.S. education will not flourish under a system that is increasingly centralized.
Federal Overreach and Common Core
In this paper for the Pioneer Institute, Bill Evers, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, examines Common Core, tests aligned to Common Core standards, Race to the Top, and No Child Left Behind waivers and provides a social, historical, and legal look at big government’s intrusion into America’s educational landscape.
The Common Core: A Poor Choice for States
In this Heartland Institute Policy Brief, Heartland Institute Research Fellow Joy Pullmann reveals some major weaknesses of the Common Core. The program represents a major centralization of control over curriculum, contrary to the American tradition of decentralized control and funding. Instead of being “world class,” the standards represent a significant step back from what experts say are the standards America really needs.
Replacing Common Core with Proven Standards of Excellence
David Anderson of Asora Education Enterprises argues the Common Core standards have already fallen short of expectations. He summarizes some of the many failings of Common Core, including incompleteness, low standards, lack of a research basis, and invasions of privacy. He recounts how Common Core was “captured” by Washington, DC and laws were broken along the way. Finally, he proposes using the ACT as an alternative to Common Core tests.
Tip Sheet: Common Core Standards
As they have learned how Common Core will affect curricula, teaching, and testing, state lawmakers and citizens have objected strenuously. The main concerns include Common Core’s questionable academic quality, nontransparent creation and quick adoption, federal government involvement, links to a vast expansion of student data-mining, and further erosion of state and local control. Heartland Institute Research Fellow Joy Pullmann argues states should replace Common Core with higher-quality, state-controlled academic standards and tests not funded by the federal government. They should secure student data privacy and ensure national testing mandates do not affect instruction in private and home schools.
Study: Common Core Violates Federal Law
This research paper from the Pioneer Institute charges Common Core standards and two testing consortia responsible for administering tests aligned with the standards violate federal laws. The authors cite the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, the General Education Provisions Act of 1970, and the Department of Education Organization Act of 1970 as forbidding federal control over curriculum and instruction. The authors argue federal laws forbid the national government from favoring a particular set of curriculum-content standards.
Arkansas Replacing Common Core Tests with ACTs
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) has directed the state Board of Education to replace the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) Common Core aligned tests with ACT and ACT-Aspire tests. The change was recommended by the Governor’s Council on Common Core Review. The council stated it recommended moving from PARCC to ACT because of the latter’s “comparability between states; the minimal time spent testing relative to PARCC; and the ACT’s relevance to students.”
Common Core Diminishes Teaching of Classic Literature
Vivian Hughbanks argues the Common Core K–12 standards for English language arts focus excessively on text comprehension and communication techniques and deemphasize reading of imaginative literature such as fiction by Dostoevsky, Austen, and Homer. Common Core supporters tout the standards’ inclusion of a requirement to teach one Shakespeare play and one American literary work, but there is no way to be certain the underlying themes and meanings of those texts will be taught or gauged.
Bruno Behrend: Common Core
Heartland Institute Senior Fellow Bruno Behrend joins the Dave Elswick Show to discuss Common Core. Behrend and Elswick talk about the popular perceptions of Common Core and public education and why the new standards will not solve our educational problems. Elswick compares the standards to the “new math” program in the past, which caused more problems than it fixed, and Behrend explains the controversy over Common Core is a symptom of a larger problem.
Nothing in this Research & Commentary is intended to influence the passage of legislation, and it does not necessarily represent the views of The Heartland Institute. For further information on this and other topics, visit the School Reform News website at https://heartland.org/topics/education/index.html, The Heartland Institute’s website at http://heartland.org, and PolicyBot, Heartland’s free online research database, at www.policybot.org.
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