The biggest issue facing education in the United States right now is the Common Core State Standards initiative. Public schools in participating states must agree to implement the common core standards, evaluate students with one of the two common core aligned assessments, evaluate teachers based, in part, on student performance data, and must gather and transmit numerous “data points” to the US Dept of Education and any other third parties as directed by the US Dept of Ed.
Virginia is not a full participant in the CCSS initiative, yet. The only thing preventing us from becoming a full participant is Governor McDonnell, whose term is in its final days.
If Virginia becomes a full participant in the CCSS initiative, what our children are taught, how they’re taught it, how their achievement is evaluated, and what information about them is shared with the federal and state government and unnamed third parties, will fundamentally change. Any promised reforms of testing or standards will be nullified as the rules and guidelines established by the CCSS initiative and the US Dept of Ed will be the rules we have to follow.
In lieu of the potential impact on public education in Virginia if Virginia were to become a full participant in the CCSS initiative, you’d think the gubernatorial candidates would have something to say about them in their campaign platforms, but they don’t. The candidates’ opinions on the CCSS aren’t anywhere on their campaign web sites and they haven’t been asked about it in any of the debates.
So I asked them.
I spoke with and emailed representatives of each of the candidates. I asked them all the same question and received confirmation that the responses I’d recorded accurately represented their candidate’s opinion.
Here’s what I asked them:
“The Common Core State Standards establish a shared set of academic content standards and assessments for Math and Language Arts that have been adopted by 45 states. The Virginia Department of Education has aligned our state Standard of Learning for Math and Language Arts with the CCSS, but we are not a fully participating CCSS member state. Virginia becoming a full participant in the CCSS initiative would require a number of things above and beyond shared academic content standards. Those things include, but are not limited to, adopting the CCSS as our state academic content standards, purchasing and implementing CCSS aligned instructional materials in public school classrooms, utilizing one of the CCSS aligned assessments to gauge student learning on the schedule and in the manner proscribed by the consortia developing those assessments, and gathering and reporting any data required to the US Department of Education.
Do you believe Virginia should fully participate in the Common Core State Standards initiative?”
Here are their responses:
Sarvis has innovative ideas for reforming public schools, but he wants the focus of his policy to be greater choice and freedom in educating children, fostering open and competitive markets in educational services, freeing teachers from administrative hurdles and standardized tests, rewarding good teachers and the value they create, and prioritizing actual learning over technology, fads, and seniority. He is against further funding or oversight by the federal government and against further alignment with centralized planning by govt or NGOs. Instead, he believes choice and competition are the key to improving educational outcomes at lower cost.
Forty-five states have adopted the CCSS. There appears to be value and benefits associated with fully participating in the CCSS initiative. Terry has not made a decision either way on Virginia’s participation in the CCSS initiative. Once elected, Terry, his team, and his education task force will carefully evaluate all of the information about the CCSS before they make a decision.
Virginia has a long history of establishing its own standards, which are often higher than the national standards. Ken is calling for a revision of our SOLs. The states that have adopted Common Core Standards have come across significant difficulty in the implementation. We do not intend to adopt the Common Core Standards in place of our SOLs.