On Feb. 21, Gov. Mary Fallin defended Common Core academic standards for schoolchildren and expressed frustration over misinformation about the issue.
Thursday, she did an about face and signed a bill repealing the standards.
“So what changed?” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan asked in a White House briefing Monday. “Politics changed.”
The political tide turned in a big way against the rigorous math and English standards. They became increasingly linked to the notion of federal overreach, even though they were developed in 2009 in a state-led effort through the National Governors Association, an organization Fallin now heads.
In the briefing, Duncan said tough standards are needed. When states have reduced their standards it’s “bad for kids, it’s bad for the country, it’s terrible for education,” he said.
The education secretary said Oklahoma is among the states that need to do a better job of educating its young people.
“So in Oklahoma, about 40 percent of high school graduates — these are not the dropouts — 40 percent of high school graduates have to take remedial classes when they go to college,” he said. “Why? Because they weren’t ready — 40 percent. About 25 percent of Oklahoma’s eighth-graders in math are proficient — 25 percent. And other states locally are out-educating Oklahoma.”
Duncan noted Fallin used to support Common Core.
Talking to reporters on Feb. 21 at the National Governors Association meeting, Fallin said the standards increased rigor in the classroom. She said they were developed by governors with input from educators and the business community and were not part of any federal program or mandate. “It’s frustrating,” Fallin said at the time, agreeing with another governor who decried conspiracy theories about the standards.
She struck a decidedly different tone Thursday.
“President Obama and Washington bureaucrats have usurped Common Core in an attempt to influence state education standards,” she said after signing a bill to scrap the standards and replace them temporarily with a set of pre-2010 benchmarks while still another set of standards is developed.