OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — With the Legislature’s repeal of tough, new English and math standards known as Common Core, education leaders said they’re concerned Oklahoma students will fall further behind their counterparts in more than 40 states that have implemented the standards.
Until Oklahoma develops its own new standards — a process expected to take at least two years — districts were directed by the new law to return to the Priority Academic Student Skills, or PASS standards, that were in place in 2010. But many educators worry those standards aren’t nearly enough to adequately prepare students for college or the workforce.
“From the use of those PASS standards, we have a 42 percent remediation rate in college,” said State Superintendent Janet Barresi, referring to the number of Oklahoma students who had to take remedial courses after graduating high school. “That sort of speaks for itself.”
Barresi, who campaigned as a reformer and pushed for tougher standards and more rigor in the classroom, was soundly defeated last month in a GOP primary in her quest for a second term by Joy Hofmeister, a Common Core opponent. Barresi was a strong supporter of the Common Core standards who reversed course and supported their repeal after she said they had become too politicized.
A recent study by Education Week ranked Oklahoma 41st among the 50 states and District of Columbia in K-12 achievement that ranked states based on test scores and graduation rates, among other metrics.
Amid an outcry from grassroots conservative groups who were concerned the new standards represented a federal intrusion into Oklahoma’s public education system, Oklahoma’s Republican-controlled Legislature voted to repeal the Common Core standards and directed that new ones be put in place by 2016. Gov. Mary Fallin signed the bill last month.
Several Fallin appointees on the State Board of Education joined a group of parents and teachers in suing the state, arguing lawmakers violated the board’s constitutional authority when they repealed the standards that were scheduled to go into effect in the upcoming school year. But the Supreme Court rejected that argument and said the law was constitutional.
Barresi said about 70 percent of Oklahoma’s more than 500 school districts already had substantially integrated the Common Core standards into their textbooks, teaching methods or curriculum, forcing many districts and teachers to quickly reevaluate how and what they will teach their students this year.
Heather Sparks, a middle school math teacher in Oklahoma City and the state’s Teacher of the Year in 2009, said she and many of her colleagues will continue to utilize the teaching methods and strategies they developed while implementing common core.
“Those are teaching practices, and we can continue to implement those with or without the actual standards,” Sparks said. “But as far as knowing that my students who are in eighth grade this year are going to be a full two years behind students across the country — that ought to be concerning for parents, especially when it comes time for them to apply for college and take the ACT and SAT.”
The State Board of Education is expected to take formal action at its regular meeting on Wednesday to implement the PASS standards and lay out plans for developing new standards with input from teachers and parents across the state.
“It’s kind of thrown everything sideways,” said Amy Ford of Durant, one of the state board members who sued to stop the repeal of common core. “I know school districts have got to be frustrated. They’ve invested a lot of money in common core and directing their standards to Common Core.”
Some veteran teachers say reverting back to the old standards won’t be that difficult.
“I don’t think it’s that big of a deal at all,” said Jamie Minter, a fifth-grade teacher from Edmond who supported the repeal of Common Core. “My file cabinet is full of all the lessons and activities that go with the PASS standards. It won’t be hard for me at all to just pull those back out.”
Both Ford and Barresi also said they expect student test scores will increase as tests revert to the old standards, but warned those higher scores will be misleading.
“It’s not going to be magical,” Barresi said. “It’s because they’re not taking as rigorous a test.”