Oklahoma Lawmakers Made a Mistake Replacing the Common Core, Not by Adopting the Standards

In the Edmond Sun opinion pages, State Representative Jason Murphey argues that Common Core State Standards were foisted on Oklahoma schools “sans deliberative review” by the legislature.

“Four years and millions of dollars later, the legislature admitted its mistake and tried to unwind the policy, but not until after it had put the entire education system through an emotional roller coaster of trying to abide by new standards that were subsequently repealed.”

Rep. Murphey’s insinuation—that the Common Core was developed behind closed doors and sprung on Oklahoma families at the 11th hour—is simply not true. The standards were developed by educators, experts and state leaders from 49 states and territories. In 2010, the Oklahoma Legislature voted to have the state Department of Education adopt Common Core State Standards.

Rep. Murphey is right that the subsequent political attacks—many of which were based on misleading and false information—put the state’s education system on a “rollercoaster.” Despite an executive order from Gov. Mary Fallin, which reiterated Oklahoma’s control over its education standards, critics alleged they were the work of the federal government—claims that were repeatedly discredited.

Those opposition campaigns sent the state’s schools, teachers and students on a path of turmoil and disruption, when in 2014 lawmakers voted to repeal and replace the Common Core. While other states were moving forward, “Oklahoma has taken a step backwards, reverting to an old set of demonstrably inferior education standards and setting schools on a rocky path of disruption, uncertainty and internal turmoil,” a 2015 study by the Collaborative for Student Success notes.

Educators and administrators cautioned the move would create needless uncertainty. “[Repeal] will throw many schools into chaos as they prepare for a new academic year,” said Shawn Hime, executive director of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association. “This decision is not good for Oklahoma’s schools, and it’s not good for Oklahoma’s kids.”

Oklahoma’s ill-advised decision to repeal-and-replace the Common Core reaffirms the impossible challenge of producing education standards that are equally as rigorous as the Common Core, and that also bear no resemblance to the Common Core. A follow-up white paper by the Collaborative for Student Success explains:

“Replacing the Common Core State Standards invariably leads to either modest adjustments and renaming—effectively “rebranding” the Common Core (as in both Indiana and South Carolina)—or, academic standards that are inferior to the Common Core (as in Oklahoma).”

While State Rep. Murphey claims Oklahoma policymakers made a mistake by adopting the Common Core, the state’s rocky path over the last several years indicates the mistake was actually caving to political pressure and replacing the learning goals.