Threatening Common Core Repeal, Legislation Creates Uncertainty, Potential Turmoil for Kansas Teachers and Students

Lawmakers in Kansas are considering legislation that would prohibit school districts from aligning materials and tests to Common Core State Standards. Opposition has come from leaders who perceive the standards as a “one-size-fits-all” initiative, the Associated Press reports. “The writers of this (curriculum) did not consider how differently kids think,” says one parent.

Common Core State Standards were developed by educators and experts from across the country, and voluntarily adopted by states. The standards do not control how or what teachers teach in their classrooms; those decisions remain entirely at the local level. In fact, educators overwhelmingly support Common Core State Standards because they provide greater flexibility and creativity.

Last year, 21 State Teachers of the Year wrote: “The Common Core is not a federal takeover of our schools, nor does it force teachers into a rigid model for classroom instruction…In fact, under the Common Core, teachers have greater flexibility to design their classroom lessons—and can, for the first time, take advantage of the best practices from great teachers in other states.”

Many Kansas educators point out that Common Core State Standards set high expectations that prepare students for college and careers after high-school graduation. “By increasing the rigor, we will get our low-income students moving up to the level that they need to be,” says William Hall, superintendent of Salina schools, the article notes.

Policymakers should consider Oklahoma’s example before letting mischaracterizations of the Common Core force their hand. After adopting the Common Core, Oklahoma lawmakers moved to replace the standards with explicitly different learning goals. “But the new standards aren’t dramatically different than the repealed Common Core State Standards, according to one expert,” The Oklahoman editorial board wrote last month.

“It will be interesting to see if legislators who previously decried Common Core as an apocalyptic federal takeover now embrace what they previously claimed to abhor,” the editorial goes on to say. “Of greater concern is that the proposed standards may fall short of officials’ promise to produce something that would make Oklahoma a national education leader.”

A white paper by the Collaborative for Student Success offers a similarly cautious assessment. While other states are moving forward with rigorous standards and high-quality assessments, “Oklahoma has taken a step backwards,” the paper notes. It concludes:

“For leaders still considering the future of high, consistent academic standards and related assessments in their states, Oklahoma should serve as a cautionary tale. While other states are working to provide parents and teachers with better tools to measure student development toward college- and career-readiness, the future for Oklahoma’s academic standards – and its students – is less certain.”