Revised academic Common Core standards explained

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HARRISBURG -- After hearings this spring on a new set of academic standards drew outcry from the right and left, the Corbett administration's top education official returned to a Senate committee Thursday to explain how revisions should calm those fears.

Carolyn Dumaresq, who became acting secretary of education Monday with the resignation of acting secretary William Harner, maintained that concerns about the Pennsylvania Common Core standards arose at least in part from misunderstandings.

But she said the proposed update to school regulations had been revised to assuage those concerns.

The code would now make clear, she said, that the government will not enact reading lists or a statewide curriculum. It would state that the board will not include national assessments as part of its state testing except with legislative authorization, or for students enrolled in special education after consultation with teachers and parents. And it would bar the department from expanding its collection of student data as a result of the new standards.

Some of those concerns had been spelled out in a resolution the state House passed in June.

"It's to quell the overall concern in the public and among the General Assembly that these things were going to be occurring based on what was going on at the national level," said Tim Eller, a spokesman for the department. "This is to put on the record that Pennsylvania has never intended and will not be doing that stuff."

Pennsylvania has been moving toward implementing educational standards drawn in part from the Common Core, a set of expectations for math and English that has been adopted by 44 other states and the District of Columbia. The Common Core was developed by the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers. The Obama administration used its stimulus-funded Race to the Top program in part to prompt states to adopt the standards.

The Pennsylvania Board of Education approved the Common Core in 2010, with three years for school districts to implement the standards. It then revisited the standards and drew up a customized framework from the Common Core and existing Pennsylvania standards.

The revised standards were well into the regulatory process when backlash last spring prompted the governor to call for revisions. Members of a 9/12 Project group from York had attended a hearing in protest after hearing about the standards from the conservative radio and TV personality Glenn Beck. Senate Democrats had said that policymakers needed to accompany more rigorous requirements with increased funding.

Sen. Andy Dinniman of Chester County, the ranking Democrat on the education committee, continued Thursday to argue that higher academic standards would require additional resources for schools.

"They don't have any resources," he said. "That's the position of my caucus: We don't oppose the standards, but we oppose a stamp of failure on any student, on any community, until that community has the appropriate standards to achieve."

The revised standards will now return to the state board of education, which is scheduled to meet Sept. 11 and 12 in Harrisburg. If approved, they will continue through the regulatory process.

education - state

Karen Langley: klangley@post-gazette.com or 1-717-787-2141.


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