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Colorado Republicans Seek to Pull Out of Common Core Standards

Following the state Board of Education’s endorsement of a Republican-sponsored bill to remove Colorado from the Common Core standards and aligned assessments, the Colorado GOP is seeking to reverse its stance on the controversial nationalized education initiative.

Citing state Republicans’ decision to back away from the Common Core as a “revolt,” Eric Gorski at the Denver Post observes the shift from Republicans’ prior support of the standards as having been “fueled by more conservative lawmakers” and the fact that the GOP won control of the Colorado Senate last November “for the first time in a decade.”

The Post continues:

Although cracks in support for reforms also have appeared among Democrats sympathetic to teacher and parent concerns, Republican lawmakers face unique challenges — navigating ideological divides within their party and finding viable ways forward on education policy that don’t compromise GOP values of accountability and school choice.

Michael Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a think tank funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – the primary source of private funding for the Common Core standards – said, “Republicans are vulnerable here. They really have to be careful about backing away from their commitment to accountability and to higher standards.”

Though the Post states, “an independent reviewer” found Colorado’s own English and math standards to be “much the same” as Common Core, it was the pro-Common Core Fordham Institute that reviewed the existing standards of states in 2010, comparing them to the Common Core.

In fact, the notion that the Common Core standards are “higher” or more “rigorous” than other standards is a common talking point of Common Core proponents. No independent studies have been conducted to support that claim.

In “Common Core’s Validation: A Weak Foundation for a Crooked House,” published by the Boston-based Pioneer Institute, former adviser to the U.S. Department of Education Ze’ev Wurman challenged the claims of Common Core supporters that the standards are more “rigorous,” reflect “college-readiness,” and have been “internationally benchmarked.”

Wurman described two studies conducted by Common Core Validation Committee members, who signed off on the standards in 2010, and then later attempted to find post facto evidence to justify their decisions. In both studies, the research was poorly executed and failed to provide evidence that the standards are internationally competitive and reflective of college-readiness.

Similarly, the Brookings Institute’s 2014 Brown Center report revealed that states whose standards were less like Common Core performed better on national assessments than those states that had standards more like Common Core.

“Supporters of the Common Core argue that strong, effective implementation of the standards will sweep away such skepticism by producing lasting, significant gains in student learning,” states the Brown Center report. “So far, at least–and it is admittedly the early innings of a long ballgame–there are no signs of such an impressive accomplishment.”

Colorado State Rep. Paul Lundeen (R), former chairman of the state Board of Education and co-sponsor of the bill that would have Colorado reject the Common Core standards and PARCC, its test consortium, sees the nationalized standards as part of a gradual effort to bureaucratize education in the country.

“The current system started out with a very high-minded ideal — making sure the system is accountable,” Lundeen said. “But what has happened over the last several decades is the trend of trying to do that with additional layers of regulation. That is creating a sense of suffocation for many in the system.”

Gorski writes Lundeen’s legislation is “a nonstarter because Democrats control the House and the governor’s mansion.”

Democratic state Sen. Michael Johnston said he was concerned Republicans would try to rein in testing too much and sacrifice test data needed for public school choice.

“I’m hopeful that Republicans aren’t going to turn their back on the bipartisan work we’ve done to build a rigorous and fair accountability system in Colorado,” he said.

Many grassroots parent organizers, however, would like to see the focus put on the needs of their children.

“We will support any person or party that stands up for kids. People and big money keep trying to make this a left or right issue to marginalize it and kill legislative bills,” Jillian Moster, a parent from Douglas County, told Breitbart News. “Nothing will get accomplished till we take the labels off and only focus on the critical and authentic issue: our children’s future. No matter how far you’ve gone down the wrong road, you can and must turn around.”

The Post describes as “lost causes” Republican bills that would give tax credits to parents whose children do not attend public schools, an education savings account (ESA) bill, and a “Parents Bill of Rights” bill that would require schools to inform parents about how they can opt out of student data collection.

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