The state Senate Education Committee on Monday voted to pass a new version of a House bill that would abolish the state’s use of Common Core academic standards in kindergarten through 12th grade.
Fighting back tears, state Sen. Susan Paddack chastised senators for the way they have handled academic standards bills, saying lawmakers continue to make late-night decisions behind closed doors that have negative consequences for teachers and students.
“This bill was put together late on Friday,” said Paddack, D-Ada. “While a core group has been able to discuss this bill, this bill really has not seen the light of day. ... It weighs heavily on me that we are making decisions every day that are affecting our children negatively.”
State Sen. Josh Brecheen, R-Coalgate, defended the bill.
“This bill was vetted by 101 House members. We have improved that version working with the original author. ... We are letting the state board, through a three-year process, come up with some exceptional standards that we all agree need to be put in place.”
The bill passed the committee 11-0 and will now go to the full Senate.
The committee substitute for House Bill 3399 approved Monday would replace Common Core English, language arts and mathematics standards with new ones to be developed and adopted by the state Board of Education by Aug.1, 2015.
Academic testing associated with the new standards would be required to be implemented by the 2017-18 school year.
Common Core academic standards, developed by education chiefs and governors from 48 states, have been controversial in Oklahoma.
Critics say they frustrate young children by focusing on critical and abstract thinking before students are developmentally ready, and students are subjected to too much achievement testing. Critics also complain the standards do not allow enough local control.
Proponents, including the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, say Common Core standards are rigorous and designed to make sure students are ready for college and careers when they graduate.
Keith Ballard, superintendent of Tulsa Public Schools, and Jonetta Jonte, a language arts teacher at Oklahoma City’s Southeast High School, attended Monday’s Senate Education Committee meeting and blasted committee members for their votes.
“Our teachers and administrators at TPS (Tulsa Public Schools) have been working diligently for some time now to get ready for these new standards, and I believe that backing away from them now is a mistake,” said Ballard, who praised Common Core standards for encouraging students to think critically and work cooperatively to solve problems.
“The concern I have with this House bill is making the change now would be extremely costly given all the resources that have already been poured into Common Core,” he said. “To think now that Oklahoma is going to go out and develop standards to replace them is frightening to me.”
Jonte said dumping the Common Core standards would be a “travesty.”
“Now, it’s like we’ve wasted teacher training, teacher time, lesson planning ... resources, all of those things that we’ve just done — the senators have basically said, ‘Oops, sorry, we didn’t mean for you all to do that.’ ... The chaos in the classrooms will be great.”
“We need Common Core,” Jonte said, contending the standards have given her “more freedom in the classroom to teach children at a higher level.”
Gov. Mary Fallin issued a news release Monday, saying the measure passed by the committee protects against federal interference or control by prohibiting the state Board of Education from entering into any contract or agreement with any federal agency or private entity that would cede or limit state control.
“I support passing legislation that increases classroom rigor and accountability while guaranteeing that Oklahoma public education is protected from federal interference,” Fallin said.
“While House Bill 3399 is still a work in progress, my hope is that it will accomplish these goals and ultimately be signed into law.”
Fallin signed an executive order in 2013 that highlighted Oklahoma’s independence in implementing higher standards and student assessments.
... the senators have basically said, ‘Oops, sorry, we didn’t mean for you all to do that.’ ... The chaos in the classrooms will be great.”
a language arts teacher at Oklahoma City’s Southeast High School