A Senate Review by Senator Josh Brecheen

May 11, 2014

In removing Oklahoma from alignment to Common Core, HB 3399 designates the creation of new “college and career ready” standards to take their place. HB 3399, authored by Speaker Jeff Hickman and myself, will result in the adoption of exceptional education standards that Oklahomans can trust and be proud of, not just what’s common among the states.

In the beginning, 45 states chose to adopt Common Core with the exception of Texas, Virginia and a few others. Since that time the Obama Administration has used the No Child Left Behind waiver process to offer points for those aligned to Common Core in keeping the waiver. The NCLB waiver also allows for another option – standards created by the state in consultation with career tech and higher education. Texas just obtained a waiver from NCLB by having their higher education system deem their standards as being “college and career ready” and this is the pathway Oklahoma is pursuing through HB3399.

The intent of HB 3399 is to prevent the State School Board (SSB) from ceding the authority of the state for standards to any outside entity – meaning we can’t use Common Core (or Oklahoma Academic Standards - OAS) in the future because they have a national origin and were created outside Oklahoma. Our tests must also be designed, owned and controlled by the SSB, though schools can take the ACT and other ‘extra’ tests.

HB 3399 also forces the SSB to remove itself from any current situations in which Oklahoma isn’t in control of its standards and/or testing. It reinforces that schools can use any curricula, books or instructional materials, etc. they decide.

Now that education experts have researched Common Core, many are finding the standards insufficient.

A Jan. 29, 2013, Washington Post article, “A Tough Critique of Common Core on early childhood education” nicely summed up what’s becoming the common consensus among educators about Common Core - the process for creating the standards had too little research, public dialogue, or input from educators. These are the people in the classroom. They know how students learn best and what they’re capable of comprehending. We have thousands of these professionals in Oklahoma and they’re who should be determining Oklahoma’s standards.

Edward Miller, a writer and teacher in Wellfleet, MA, and Nancy Carlsson-Paige, a professor emerita of early childhood education at Lesley University in Cambridge, MA found there were no K-3 classroom teachers or early childhood professionals among the 135 committee members who wrote and reviewed the Common Core Standards. When the standards were revealed in March 2010, many early childhood educators and researchers, including Stephanie Feeney of the University of Hawaii and chair of the Advocacy Committee of the National Association of Early Childhood Teacher Educators, were shocked that none of the Common Core committee members had backgrounds in child development or early childhood education.

The article also notes that the Common Core website concealed or distorted comments from the public on the standards to make it seem that public opinion was more favorable than it actually was.

The website also downplayed the fact that many believe the standards are developmentally-inappropriate. Site administrators say this is simply parents concerned their “children are being pushed too hard”, which isn’t the case. They failed to mention “The Joint Statement on Early Childhood Health and Education Professionals on the Common Core Standards Initiative”, which shared the opposition of more than 500 early childhood professionals including educators, pediatricians, developmental psychologists, and researchers (many among the most prominent members in their fields). Their statement read in part “We have grave concerns about the core standards for young children…The proposed standards conflict with compelling new research in cognitive science, neuroscience, child development, and early childhood education about how young children learn, what they need to learn, and how best to teach them in kindergarten and the early grades…”

Another opponent of Common Core is University of Arkansas professor of education reform emerita, Dr. Sandra Stotsky who was formerly responsible for developing the widely-praised Massachusetts English/Language Arts Standards. Massachusetts has been a national education leader with some of the highest ACT and NAEP scores in the last 20 years. Dr. Stotsky sat on the Common Core Validation Committee and refused to validate the standards saying they wouldn’t make students “college-ready”. Massachusetts is now back peddling on implementing Common Core due to such concerns.

Another opponent is Stanford University professor of mathematics emeritus, Dr. James Milgram, who was also a member of the Common Core’s Validation Committee. Like Stotsky, he said the standards wouldn’t make high school graduates “college and career ready”. Milgram specifically said the standards wouldn’t prepare students to study science, technology, engineering & math (STEM) in a selective four-year college. These are fields that U.S. businesses are desperately seeking to fill but can’t find properly-educated applicants. He and Stotsky concluded that a “gigantic fraud” has been committed against parents by those developing, promoting and endorsing Common Core.

Bottom line - lots of falsehoods are being spread about Common Core. The standards aren’t high quality; they weren’t created by a state-led initiative; they weren’t written by teachers, parents, administrators, researchers or content experts; and the standards won’t make the U.S. more competitive with other countries. Common Core is a grand experiment and Oklahoma should learn from the chaos resulting from New York’s implementation of it.

To contact me at the Capitol, please write to Senator Josh Brecheen, State Capitol, 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd. Room 413, Oklahoma City, OK, 73105, email me at brecheen@oksenate.gov, or call (405) 521-5586.