New Pa. education standards win approval

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HARRISBURG -- After a lengthy and sometimes heated review, new math and English standards for Pennsylvania public schools won approval Thursday from a state panel.

The Independent Regulatory Review Commission voted 3-2 to approve regulations containing the Pennsylvania Core Standards, drawn both from previous state standards and from the Common Core, a set of math and English expectations developed by nationwide associations of state officials.

The regulations also make the end-of-course Keystone exams a graduation requirement, rather than a portion of a student's grade.

The regulations drew opposition from conservatives who objected to the inclusion of Common Core standards and from Senate Democrats -- particularly Sen. Andy Dinniman of Chester County -- who took exception to graduation hinging on passing an exam. (Students who do not pass after retaking an exam can instead complete a project.)

The Pennsylvania Business Council and military leaders have supported the standards as a way to ensure students are ready for careers and service.

The three yes votes Thursday came from the commissioners appointed by the Corbett administration and House and Senate Republicans. The commissioners appointed by House and Senate Democrats cast the opposing votes.

Commissioner John Mizner of Erie, who was appointed by Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati, a Republican, spoke of a global marketplace in which competition is not limited to neighboring counties and states.

"I would hope the people in the department and board of education and the parents alike will continue to work to make sure that every child that has a Pennsylvania diploma will be proud of that diploma and that that diploma will allow them to do whatever they want to do," he said before moving for approval of the regulations.

Commissioner Dennis Watson of Pittsburgh, who was appointed by Senate Democratic leader Jay Costa, said the regulations impose an "unfunded mandate" on schools and expressed concerns about high-stakes testing.

Regulations approved by IRRC are reviewed by the attorney general for "form and legality."

Karen Langley:, 1-717-787-2141 or on Twitter @karen_langley.

First Published November 21, 2013 7:13 PM

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