Education Department begins review of math and literacy standards (but don't say 'Common Core') | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Education Department begins review of math and literacy standards (but don't say 'Common Core')

Posted By on Tue, Sep 8, 2015 at 10:21 AM

click to enlarge MORE REVIEW: Education Commissioner Johnny Key with Debbie Jones (left), Assistant Commissioner of Learning Services.
  • MORE REVIEW: Education Commissioner Johnny Key with Debbie Jones (left), Assistant Commissioner of Learning Services.

The Arkansas Department of Education
announced this morning that it has begun its process of reviewing and possibly revising math and literacy standards used in K-12 education, as set forth in statute. A statewide committee of educators will be established this month and begin meeting in October, with the goal of completing the review by summer 2016. (Teachers interested in applying to sit on the committee should email Education Commissioner Johnny Key, though they only have until Sept. 10 to do so — that is, in the next couple of days.) ADE has established a dedicated website detailing the process. 

Note the two words missing from the above paragraph: Common Core.

In August, Gov. Asa Hutchinson sent a letter to the Education Department recommending that ADE should "proceed with a new name for the standards," supposedly because of copyright issues. Really, though, it's about branding. Because Common Core has become so despised among the conservative grassroots — and because the standards remain popular among influential "education reform" advocates like the Walton Foundation, as well as most education experts of all political stripes — the governor hopes a name change will defuse the issue. The ADE website devoted to the current review process is cleansed of the toxic phrase "Common Core."

At the press conference this morning, Commissioner Key said the committee reviewing the standards will indeed be coming up with a new name for them in the months ahead.

He also repeatedly emphasized ADE’s dedication to conducting the review openly. “I can’t stress enough we are going to make every effort to make this process transparent,” he said. Lieutenant Governor Tim Griffin’s office has committed funds to livestream the committee’s meetings, Key added later.

Griffin previously led the Governor’s Council on Common Core Review, a task force established by Hutchinson to scrutinize the standards. That group recommended this summer that ADE conduct the deeper review process begun today. But as ADE officials mentioned today, the review itself is not extraordinary — in fact, it's simply a part of a regular process required by Arkansas law every six years. The unusual thing is that the technical business of crafting and adjusting educational standards has become so politically charged.

At the press conference this morning I asked Key and Debbie Jones, the Assistant Commissioner for Learning Services, whether they expected the standards to remain aligned with other states’. That’s one of the great benefits of Common Core — if states have common standards, data can be compared in an apples-to-apples way (and on a more immediate level, if states are teaching roughly similar things from grade to grade, students that move from one state to another will suffer fewer disruptions in what they’re learning).

Jones said ADE had been in touch with the Council of Chief State School Officers about the planned changes, the association of state education department heads that helped to craft Common Core to begin with.

"They were very supportive, and in fact their comment was that’s exactly what states should do: make the standards their own. We will also communicate, through our ESEA flexibility waiver, with the federal government,” she said. "I expect that you will see a lot of alignment between the states."

Key said the department will recruit 75 math and 75 literacy teachers to serve on the committee. The educators will come from every grade level in all regions of the state. From ADE's release this morning:

The review process begins this month with the selection of committee members who will begin reviewing the existing standards in October. In addition to selecting committee members, four education experts have agreed to review the current standards and provide analysis: Dr. Allan Cochran, professor and trigonometry coordinator at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville; Dr. Shannon Dingman, associate professor of mathematics at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville; Dr. Donna Wake, associate professor of English language arts/reading and literacy at the University of Central Arkansas at Conway; and Dr. Dixie Keyes, associate professor of middle level education at Arkansas State University at Jonesboro. Revised standards will be available for public comment in March/April, with a final draft submitted to the State Board of Education in May/June.

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