As the Common Core State Standards have become increasingly controversial, the state of Connecticut is now offering a $1 million contract to one of four public relations companies that are vying to promote the new standards within the state.
According to CT News Junkie, the names of the four companies have been exempt from public disclosure under Connecticut’s Freedom of Information statutes. Two education stakeholders, however, have acknowledged that informing parents and the public about Common Core will prevent “misunderstandings” in the future.
“The Common Core will provide a clearer, deeper understanding of what our students will need to know when they enter the global marketplace,” said Robert Rader, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education. “It gives them enough information so they can make good decisions in the future.”
Anticipating that student scores on the new Common Core assessments will drop, Rader added that the board of education and other stakeholder groups will be ensuring that the public understands what Common Core is about.
“It’s really a very different new set of standards,” Joseph Cirasuolo, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, said. He added that he does not want Connecticut to experience the same criticism from teacher unions regarding the new Common Core tests that other states, such as New York, have encountered.
In New York, where students have already taken the Common Core-aligned tests, scores plummeted, leaving parents angry, students anxious, and teachers – whose evaluations depend on their students’ test scores – extremely worried.
In November, Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, slammed the implementation of Common core in New York and other states, claiming, “You think the Obamacare implementation is bad? The implementation of the Common Core is far worse.”
Weingarten, who is a supporter of Common Core, has called for temporary delays in the assessments aligned with the new standards, citing that the pressure to roll them out quickly has left schools with little time to develop local curricula, leaving superintendents to rely on state-provided lesson plans.
As CT News Junkie reports, Connecticut’s new Common Core-aligned assessment system will be launched simultaneously with the new teacher evaluations.
Under the new system, standardized tests and other student indicators will comprise about 45 percent of a teacher’s performance rating. Classroom observations, parent and peer surveys, and level of achievement of mutually agreed upon goals will complete the teacher evaluations.
Though the effectiveness of the Common Core standards has not been tested, Connecticut has set aside approximately $14.6 million over the next two years to transition to the new standards, about $13 million of which will be used for professional development and technology.
In addition, the state is seeking financial assistance from private, nonprofit foundations to help pay for the transition to Common Core.
“One of our main priorities has been finding the best ways to support teachers and administrators during this transition,” said Kelly Donnelly, spokeswoman for the state Education Department.
However, Diane Ravitch, a U.S. Assistant Education Secretary under President George H.W. Bush, and a New York University professor, has questioned how any nation can adopt the Common Core standards without evidence that they will, in fact, improve achievement and help students prepare for the future.
Last August, Ravitch wrote at the Huffington Post:
The Common Core standards, its boosters insist, are all that stand between us and economic and military catastrophe…
How does anyone know that the Common Core standards will prepare everyone for college and careers since they are now being adopted for the very first time?
“The biggest fallacy of the Common Core standards,” stated Ravitch, “is that they have been sold to the nation without any evidence that they will accomplish what their boosters claim.”