Oklahoma Could Be First to Really Dump Common Core

On May 23, 2014, both the Oklahoma House (71-18) and Senate (31-10) voted to dump the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

All that is left is for Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin to sign the legislation, HB 3399, into law. (Fallin was not governor when Oklahoma signed on for CCSS as part of Race to the Top {RTTT} in 2010.)

In December 2013, Fallin issued an executive order that included absorbing the term Common Core into the broader term, Oklahoma Academic Standards.

Fallin also noted that the Oklahoma legislature aligned its education legislation with CCSS and even included the language to align Oklahoma’s English Language Arts (ELA) and math standards “with the K-12 Common Core State Standards developed by the Common Core State Standards Initiative.”

The Oklahoma legislature might have approved CCSS effective August 1, 2010, but it has apparently reversed its decision on May 23, 2014.

This is no “rebrand,” folks. HB 3399 appears to be a genuine rejection of CCSS.

Here is some of the language from the bill:

Section 11-103.6a B.1. …To be considered college- and career-ready, the standards shall be evaluated by the State Department of Education, the State Regents for Higher Education, the State Board of Career and Technology Education and the Oklahoma Department of Commerce and be determined to be such that the standards will address the goals of reducing the need for remedial coursework at the postsecondary level and increasing successful completion of postsecondary education. The subject matter standards and corresponding student assessments for English Language Arts and Mathematics shall be solely approved and controlled by the state through the State Board of Education.

2. Upon the effective date of this act, the State Board of Education shall begin the process of adopting the English Language Arts and Mathematics standards and shall provide reasonable opportunity, consistent with best practices, for public comment on the revision of the standards, including but not limited to comments from students, parents, educators, organizations representing students with disabilities and English language learners, higher education representatives, career technology education representatives, subject matter experts, community-based organizations, Native American tribal representatives and businesscommunity representatives.

3. Until the statewide student assessments for English Language 
Arts and Mathematics are implemented… the State Board of Education shallimplement the subject matter standards for English Language Arts andMathematics which were in place prior to the revisions adopted by the Board in June 2010.  [Emphasis added.]

In short, until the new Oklahoma standards and associated assessments are ready (“on or before the 2017-18 school year”), Oklahoma will return to the math and English Language Arts (ELA) standards in place prior to CCSS completion in June 2010.

(An aside: Oklahoma’s appendices for its Phase 1 RTTT application shows impressive effort to establish its case for both national and international benchmarking of the College and Career Readiness Standards {CCRS} in math– the “anchor” math standards that were never finalized and just disappeared.  Oklahoma also tried to show that CCRS math fit in with CCSS precursor, the American Diploma Project. Furthermore, RTTT Phase 1 reviewer comments indicate that Oklahoma submitted a CCSS MOU though I could not find it in the 900-page RTTT appendices and that Oklahoma “has initiated procedures for adoption of Common Core Standards well before August, 2010.” Oklahoma’s Phase 2 appendices clearly states the intention of CCSS adoption later effected by Oklahoma 2010 SB 2033.)

On May 23, 2014, the Oklahoma legislature clarifies that there are to be no more memoranda of understanding (MOUs) between Oklahoma and federal government, indicating that the Oklahoma legislature intends to be the legal authority over Oklahoma public education:

D. 1. The State Board of Education shall not enter into any 
agreement, memorandum of understanding or contract with any federal agency or private entity which in any way cedes or limits state discretion or control over the process of development, adoption or revision of subject matter standards and corresponding student assessments in the public school system, including, but not limited to, agreements, memoranda of understanding and contracts in exchange for funding for public schools and programs. If the State Board ofEducation is a party to such an agreement, memorandum of understanding or contract on the effective date of this act, the State Board of Education shall initiate necessary efforts to amend the agreement, memorandum of understanding or contract to comply with the requirements of this subsection. [Emphasis added.]

For all of its efforts to meet federal, RTTT criteria (and it did try– reading the RTTT docs shows OK’s willingness to bend), Oklahoma did not receive RTTT funding.

However, it seems that in drafting the CCSS-exit legislation, 2014 Oklahoma lawmakers are taking no chances.

The newly-approved bill continues with stating that the state board of education can still seek waivers (presumably from No Child Left Behind {NCLB}) provided such waivers do not limit state authority over education standards or assessments. Furthermore, the bill does not prohibit benchmarking Oklahoma standards with other states or nations, but it does require the Oklahoma State Board of Education to “maintain independence” and not “relinquish authority.”

HB 3399 states that Oklahoma school districts will “exclusively determine… instruction… and curriculum.”

Also, the Oklahoma State Board of Education may participate in a testing consortium “but shall not bind the state, contractually or otherwise, to the authority of any other state, organization or entity which may supersede the authority of the Board….” In other words, Oklahoma must be free to exit any testing consortium if it wishes.

Another interesting component of HB 3399 concerns both academic standard content and related standardized testing content, thereby guarding against testing companies such as Pearson sneaking questions that have nothing to do with a given subject area into its subject-area tests. To such shady practices, Oklahoma lawmakers say “no”:

H.1. All subject matter standards and corresponding statewide student assessments adopted by the State Board of Education shall be carefully circumscribed to reflect direct application to subject matter proficiency and shall not include standards or assessment questions that are designed to collect or measure noncognitive, emotional or psychological characteristics, attributes or skills of students.

As for the creation of a new set of Oklahoma standards for math and ELA, HB 3399 includes the following stipulations:

Section 11-103.6 A.6. The subject matter standards for English Language Arts shall give Classic Literature and nonfiction literature equal consideration to other literature. In addition, emphasis shall be given to the study of complete works of literature.

7. At a minimum, the subject matter standards for mathematics shall require mastery of the standard algorithms in mathematics, which is the most logical, efficient way of solving a problem that consistently works, and for students to attain fluency in Euclidian geometry. [Emphasis added.]

At the end of two years, the new Oklahoma standards are to be compared to the “previous” CCSS across numerous criteria, including subject matter content, sequencing, developmental appropriateness, measurability, and development of critical thinking.

If this were merely an effort at “rebranding,” the turn-around would certainly be faster than three years and three months, and there would be no return to previous, state standards in the interim.

Now Oklahoma only needs a signature from its governor– a governor willing in December 2013 to try for a CCSS “rebrand.”

Fallin has until June 2, 2014– fifteen days following the may 23, 2014, adjournment of the Oklahoma legislative session– to sign the bill. Otherwise, her not signing is know as a pocket veto– the decision to take no action. The bill would die unless the Oklahoma legislature calls a special session.

This will certainly be one to watch.

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