Georgia has now joined the states of Alabama, Utah, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania in withdrawing from the national Common Core tests. With this latest state withdrawal, the program appears to be in danger of unraveling.
According to Politico, now that the new math and language tests that are tied to the Common Core national academic standards are almost ready, state officials have found that the exams are too long, too expensive, and require a higher level of computer technology than is often available. Perhaps first and foremost, however, states are fighting back against the standards as a federal intrusion into an area that has historically been reserved for them.
“There are going to be lots and lots of forces pulling states away from these assessments,” said Andy Smarick, an education analyst with Bellwether Education Partners. “It doesn’t look good.”
In addition, the House has just passed the Student Success Act (SSA), a proposal sponsored by GOP Reps. John Kline (MN) and Todd Rokita (IN), to rewrite the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law.
The Heritage Foundation reports that the SSA would eliminate the federal mandate known as Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for reading and math proficiency, and thereby allow states to design their own accountability systems.
The SSA would also eliminate the Highly Qualified Teacher (HQT) federal mandate, a burdensome and ineffective regulation requiring teachers of core subjects to be state certified and have a bachelor’s degree. With research indicating that teacher impact on student achievement is not affected by whether a teacher is traditionally or alternatively certified – or even uncertified – the SSA again returns this decision to state and local educational leaders.
Very pertinent to the Common Core standards, the SSA would also remove maintenance-of-effort regulations that require states to spend money in order to obtain the associated federal funding.
According to the Heritage Foundation, the SSA:
…includes strong language clearly delineating that standards and assessments are not to be dictated by the U.S. Secretary of Education–important at a time when the Obama Administration has been pushing states to adopt Common Core national standards and tests. An amendment by Representative Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO) further strengthened that provision, providing a “sense of Congress” that “states and local educational agencies should maintain the rights and responsibilities of determining educational curriculum, programs of instruction, and assessments for elementary and secondary education.”
As Heritage notes, however, while the SSA could reduce federal red tape in schools, ultimately conservatives hope to substantially limit federal intervention in education. Admittedly, a “fix” to NCLB doesn’t hold a candle to allowing states to completely opt out of the federal program in order to spend their dollars on their most urgent educational needs.
Nevertheless, the push-back against federal intervention into education could undercut the goal of the Obama administration to set the same proficiency standards across the nation.
In fact, Heartlander Magazine indicates that if three more states withdraw from Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), one of the two federally funded national testing consortia that are creating Common Core tests, the group’s $186 million federal grant will be in jeopardy.
Once PARCC released its new cost estimate of $29.50 per student for math and language testing, Georgia announced its withdrawal. Georgia’s current testing costs $8 to $9 per student, and it assesses five subject areas.
PARCC now has 18 member states, while Smarter Balanced, the other consortium, has 24.