The U.S. Department of Education (USED) has punished the state of Oklahoma for repealing the Common Core standards and reverting to its previous academic standards by rescinding the state’s waiver from No Child Left Behind (NCLB), making it the second state ever to lose its waiver from the law.
As Caitlin Emma of Politico reports, Indiana, on the contrary, was granted a one-year extension of its waiver from NCLB because, though Gov. Mike Pence (R) declared he was the first governor to repeal the Common Core standards, his state’s replacement standards are remarkably similar to the Common Core and, as such, still met the requirements for the waiver.
The fact that Oklahoma’s waiver was denied while Indiana was granted an extension makes it clear that, despite the protests of Common Core supporters that the standards are “voluntary” and “state-led,” the federal government is, in fact, determining which states will receive reprieves from federal restrictions based on their choices of academic standards.
States that adopted “college- and career-ready standards” in math and English Language Arts that are “common to a significant number of states” or “certified by a state network of institutions of higher education” avoided NCLB requirements, which include providing school choice, tutoring, and reconfiguring failing schools. Most states simply adopted the Common Core to obtain the waivers, inviting even further federal intrusion into their education policies.
“It is outrageous that President [Barack] Obama and Washington bureaucrats are trying to dictate how Oklahoma schools spend education dollars,” Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) said in a statement. “Because of overwhelming opposition from Oklahoma parents and voters to Common Core, Washington is now acting to punish us. This is one more example of an out-of-control presidency that places a politicized Washington agenda over the well-being of Oklahoma students.”
Fallin signed a repeal bill of the Common Core standards in early June that also allowed her state to return to its previous PASS standards. Fallin also serves as chairwoman of the National Governors Association (NGA), one of the developers and owners of the copyright of the Common Core standards.
The loss of the waiver means that 100 percent of Oklahoma students must be performing math and reading at grade level at most schools by this school year. The USED expects the state to use student test results from last school year to determine which schools are meeting the requirement. Those schools that fall short will have to take steps toward improvement, which could include a total reconfiguration of the staff or a private or state takeover of the school.
Oklahoma will also have to set aside about $29 million in federal Title I dollars to pay for tutoring, school choice, and professional development.
According to Politico, the USED wanted the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education to determine whether the PASS standards were rigorous enough to allow the NCLB waiver, but the agency failed to do so prior to the state’s filing of its application for a waiver extension.
“Having college-and-career-ready standards matters because it provides critical thinking and problem solving skills – skills that students need to succeed in college and beyond,” said USED press secretary Dorie Nolt. “Oklahoma was unable to demonstrate that its students are learning high standards this year, which the state committed to do under its ESEA flexibility request.”
“State leaders still have the opportunity to demonstrate that their standards are rigorous or design new standards to ensure their students are ready for college, career and life – just like Indiana and several other states have done,” Nolt added.
Though the USED continues to employ language that suggests the Common Core standards are “rigorous” and worthy of setting the bar for individual states, no independent research has been conducted to validate that claim. The 45 state boards of education that signed onto the Common Core standards did so without ever having seen the standards because they were yet to be published.
As Jason Richwine at National Review Online wrote Monday, a recent compendium of 60 research papers related to Common Core design and implementation – collected by the Center for Education Policy at George Washington University – found that only 2 of the 60 papers are in fact even devoted to measuring Common Core’s effects on student test scores. Both papers, Richwine states, “employ the dubious correlation-across-states methodology, and both give mixed results at best.”
Much like the push for government preschool, the Common Core movement is suffused with much hope but little evidence. That’s clear from how the standards were developed in the first place. As an important article from last November’s American Journal of Education points out, most of the research evidence behind Common Core focuses on identifying problems – America’s poor international ranking, achievement gaps, high school graduates without basic skills, etc. But when it came to writing standards to address those problems, the Common Core developers had little to go on except the standards of high-performing nations and the “professional judgment” of various stakeholders.
The concept of waivers given to states by the federal government for fulfilling certain education requirements and the punishment of states by the federal government for not fulfilling those requirements continues to emphasize the fed’s movement toward domination of education in the United States.
This week Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) of Louisiana filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration, alleging that it illegally manipulated states with federal grant money and regulations that forced them to adopt the Common Core standards.
The news of Jindal’s lawsuit came following an announcement by PARCC, one of the federally funded multi-state Common Core test consortia, that, in fact, the controversial standards and their associated tests are intended to drive curriculum, an area that is legally off-limits by the federal government.
Breitbart News also reported Tuesday that Terry Holliday, Kentucky school commissioner and president of the board of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), the other nonprofit that developed and owns the copyright to the Common Core standards, called out the USED on several occasions this month as well for violating state and federal laws regarding the standards and assessment processes of states.
Kentucky – the first state to sign onto the Common Core standards – was rejected by the USED in its request for a waiver from implementation of the Next-Generation Science Standards.
“I believe the current waiver process represents a major federal intrusion into the rights of each state to develop, implement, and manage the public education of the state,” Holliday wrote in a blog post.
Common Core champion and Fordham Institute president Michael Petrilli called the USED’s move on Oklahoma a “terrible decision.”
“While Bobby Jindal doesn’t have a case against Arne Duncan, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin sure as heck does,” he said. “I hope she sues. Nothing in ESEA gives the secretary of education the authority to push states around when it comes to their standards.”
Petrilli, however, does not seem to mind private corporations “pushing states” into the Common Core standards.
As Breitbart News reported August 18, a new non-profit organization, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and with connections to the Fordham Institute, is being launched with the task of reviewing textbooks and other instructional materials to ensure they are aligned with the Common Core standards.
EdReports says it will review instructional materials that say they are aligned to the Common Core standards so that teachers, principals, school districts, and state officials who are in charge of purchasing curricula know what to buy.
The Oklahoma congressional delegation has responded to the Obama administration’s punitive action against the state in a press release.
“The Obama Administration doesn’t like when Oklahomans buck big government regulations, and today the Administration responded by penalizing our children with failing to grant the one-year extension of the ESEA flexibility,” said Sen. Jim Inhofe (R).
“Oklahomans want education reform that sets standards created and certified by Oklahoma’s institutions, community leaders, and parents,” Inhofe added. “Instead of supporting these values, the Obama Administration has chosen to make it more expensive and difficult to achieve the state’s education goals that, once met, will exceed the requirements set by the U.S. Department of Education.”
“As seen with ObamaCare taxes or the Endangered Species Act rulings, today’s decision continues the trend of this Administration punishing Oklahoma for making decisions that represent the goals and interests of its constituents,” the senator said.
“Our state stood firm against further federal intrusion into the education of our children by rejecting the Common Core curriculum and determining that local educational leaders could best develop the appropriate curriculum for Oklahoma students,” said Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R). “Instead of applauding this constitutional decision and leadership, the Obama Administration decided today to reject the requested one year extension of flexibility previously granted to Oklahoma under ESEA.”
“This politically motivated decision is the perfect example of how the unconstitutional federalization of education has effectively taken away the power reserved for the states and the people by our founders,” Bridenstine continued. “It’s time to abolish the federal Department of Education and return power to the states consistent with the 10th Amendment.”
Oklahoma state House leaders also commented on the Obama administration’s punitive action toward the state.
“I challenge the U.S. Dept. of Education to ‘demonstrate’ that Common Core is college and career ready in Oklahoma before they begin dictating how we run our state’s education system,” said Rep. Jason Nelson (R) in a statement emailed to Breitbart News. “They can’t do it. Each state’s college remediation requirements are different and they have absolutely no idea if Common Core meets their own requirements.”
“In the Obama administration’s determination to compel Oklahoma to stay with Common Core, they plan to impose onerous federal regulations on our education system that were unnecessary this morning but are now, amazingly, necessary this afternoon,” Nelson added. “It’s obvious that states like Oklahoma must not flinch in taking back control of our standards if we truly want standards that can be ‘demonstrated’ to be college and career ready. Unfortunately, this letter is the latest example of the slow death of federalism which is being replaced with flawed logic.”
Washington was the first state to lose its NCLB waiver when the state legislature failed to remedy the fact that its teacher performance evaluations were not tied to statewide student assessment results.