Gov. Tom Corbett today issued a news release calling for “continued public review” of state standards in English language arts and math in elementary and secondary public schools.
The standards, known as the Pennsylvania Core, already are being put into place in schools throughout the state. Some districts have spent considerable time and money to update their instruction.
The Pennsylvania Core was approved by the state Board of Education in September last year and is intended to demand higher analytical thinking than past standards. It is the state’s version of the Common Core State Standards, which have been adopted by most states along with some state-specific modifications.
The governor’s news release calls this the “final phase in his nearly three-year effort to permanently roll back the national Common Core plan implemented by his predecessor, Gov. (Ed) Rendell.”
In 2010, the state Board of Education approved the Common Core State Standards, which were developed by the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers. The Common Core provided national standards as well as an opportunity for states to add some state-specific standards. At the time, Pennsylvania gave districts three years to implement the new standards.
While most states adopted the Common Core State Standards, there has been some pushback since then in some states that have questioned federal involvement.
Last year, Pennsylvania made some changes from the 2010 version, although much of the Common Core remains.
Mr. Corbett views the state board’s action in 2013 the beginning of “the formal process of repealing and replacing the national Common Core Standards with the Pennsylvania-specific standards.”
In the news release, Mr. Corbett said, “I am now asking the State Board to continue the process we began at the start of my term and to ensure that any final influence of the national Common Core State Standards is eradicated from Pennsylvania.”
Mr. Corbett said the Common Core has been “overly influenced by the federal government,” calling it “nothing more than a top-down takeover of the education system.”
Mr. Corbett said acting Education Secretary Carolyn Dumaresq this week will ask the state board to conduct “immediate hearings.” As part of a review, he said Ms. Dumaresq will work with “top national experts, top tier universities, teachers and parents to ensure the current and future needs of our children are being met in the classroom.”
After Mr. Corbett issued his news release, two Republicans -- state Reps. Ryan Aument of Landcaster and Seth Grove of York -- issued their own statement saying they are “frustrated and confused by Governor Corbett’s incongruous decision to conduct a public review of Pennsylvania’s Academic Standards, which were developed by his administration to remove Pennsylvania from the grasp of the national Common Core Standards and supported by the General Assembly.
“We are extremely disappointed the Corbett administration is considering reversing its own policy and opting to further convolute public understanding of our statewide academic standards. As a result, we have lost total confidence in this administration’s ability to manage implementation of these state-specific academic standards.”
Their news release also stated, “It is unfortunate that instead of educating the public about the value of the newly adopted state standards, the administration is choosing to repeat efforts already taken by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and add further confusion to the implementation process.
“After all, public hearings on the current Pennsylvania Academic Standards were already held. Furthermore, during a House Education hearing, the secretary was already asked by members of the House Education Committee to provide the standards in laymen’s terms so both parents and school boards would have a better understanding of the academic standards."
The pair has asked House Education Committee Chairman Paul Clymer to conduct additional hearings “to thoughtfully reconsider the process by which they were adopted and the process by which the governor decided to re-evaluate his own newly adopted standards.”
Also issuing a critical statement was state Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-Chester, minority chair of the Senate Education Committee.
Mr. Dinniman said there have been hearings and “endless debates” for three and a half years. “And during this time, the governor has not said one word in opposition. Now that an election is coming up, he wants a review,” he said.
Mr. Dinniman, who opposed graduation tests and the way in which the core has been implemented, said he was “astonished that the governor, who pushed these standards, can now with any credibility state the need for them to be reviewed.”
Mr. Dinniman said he has studied both the national Common Core and Pennsylvania Core standards, adding, “I can say there is no significant difference between the two except for the preK Pennsylvania standards. The state's labeling of the national standards as Pennsylvania standards was essentially a change in name only.”
Education writer Eleanor Chute: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1955.