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ANALYSIS: How will cutting Common Core affect education in Oklahoma?

Oklahoma educators may have to design new test, Education Department spokeswoman says.
BY NATE ROBSON, Oklahoma Watch Published: June 6, 2014
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photo - Literature teacher Shelly Campbell works with student Dacember Traylor at John Marshall High School. Campbell was named the Oklahoma City Public Schools Teacher of the Year last year.  CDL1 - CHRIS LANDSBERGER
Literature teacher Shelly Campbell works with student Dacember Traylor at John Marshall High School. Campbell was named the Oklahoma City Public Schools Teacher of the Year last year. CDL1 - CHRIS LANDSBERGER

A decision to drop Common Core academic standards in Oklahoma has left a wake of questions about what will happen in the two years it takes to implement new standards.

Will dropping the standards change what students learn in the classroom or how teachers teach? What will the new standards look like?

The picture grew fuzzy after Gov. Mary Fallin signed a bill Thursday that repeals the controversial standards and gives Oklahoma until 2016 to craft replacement standards in math and English. She follows South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who signed a bill May 30 phasing in new standards by 2016. Indiana dropped Common Core earlier this year.

In explaining her move, Fallin said federal overreach has tainted what was once a state-led initiative to create rigorous standards meant to ensure students are ready for college or the workforce.

State schools Superintendent Janet Barresi came out in support of Fallin’s decision late Thursday, marking a change from her previous stance supporting the standards.

“At one time, as it was emerging from Republican and conservative ideas from individual states, I did support Common Core,” Barresi said in a news release. “As it has become entangled with federal government, however, Common Core has become too difficult and inflexible.”

Here’s a look at what the decision means:

What changes will your child see because of the repeal?

The effects could vary depending on how far along your district was in transitioning to Common Core. Districts ready to implement the standards must revert to old standards, while those not prepared will see few or no changes for now.

Districts should be able to keep using current textbooks and class materials. Teachers trained to use Common Core approaches in trying to instill a deeper understanding of content in students could still use some of those methods under new standards.

The biggest change could be what students are expected to do during testing.

Oklahoma will continue using its Priority Academic Student Skills standards, which many educators consider less rigorous than Common Core, before switching to new standards in 2016.

It’s unclear what this will mean for standardized testing since the last year PASS was fully implemented on a state assessment was 2010.

Oklahoma has been using a hybrid test combining PASS and Common Core standards, and was preparing to implement a test fully aligned to the Common Core starting next school year.

Oklahoma does not have a test right now that fully relies on PASS standards.

“We’re going to have to cobble a new test together,” state Education Department spokeswoman Tricia Pemberton said.

It was not immediately clear how the new test will be built.

What will new standards look like?

It’s too early to say, but the law signed Thursday is written in a way that requires the new standards to be compared to Common Core to ensure they are not the same.

State Rep. Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City, who helped author the bill to repeal Common Core, said there could be similarities between the benchmarks. But “if we just put in the same standards again, we would probably see the same results,” Nelson said of the repeal. “It’s possible we could get newer, better standards.”

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Oklahoma Watch is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that produces in-depth and investigative content on a range of public-policy issues in the state. For more Oklahoma Watch content, go to www.oklahomawatch.org.

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