Is Virginia Joining the Push to Nationalize Academic Standards?
By Kim Simons
One of the largest trends in public education over the past few years has been the push towards common standards and assessments in every public school in the country through an effort lead by the National Governor’s Association known as The Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI). States which have jumped on the national standards and assessments bandwagon have voluntarily agreed that the Common Core board will decide what students in their state learn as opposed to their state education department. Thus far Virginia and a small handful of other states have put off joining the herd and have not agreed to adopt the Common Core standards or assessments. Governor McDonnell and Dr. Wright, Virginia’s State Superintendent of Schools, earned praise from the contributors to this blog and others for refusing to abdicate responsibility for academic content in Virginia schools to the CCSS.
I’m starting to wonder whether that praise was poorly placed.
In Virginia there are two “documents” that stipulate academic content for each subject and grade level : the state Standards of Learning and the Curriculum Frameworks. According to the VA Dept of Ed, “The Standards of Learning (SOL) describe the commonwealth’s expectations for student learning and achievement”, while the The Curriculum Frameworks “detail the specific knowledge and skills students must possess to meet the standards for these subjects.” The documents work hand in hand to define exactly what students in Virginia schools are expected to learn for every subject taught at every grade level.
If Virginia “says” it isn’t adopting the Common Core standards and assessments, why then has the Dept of Ed revised the Curriculum Frameworks for Math and English to reflect the Common Core standards (see here for Math and here for English)?
Here’s the VA Dept. of Ed on why the changes were necessary (from the mathematics supplement to the Curriculum Frameworks):
To ensure alignment of the 2009 Mathematics Standards of Learning and Curriculum Framework with the Mathematics Common Core State Standards, Department of Education staff conducted a preliminary analysis of the content from the two sets of standards, and presented a report to the Board of Education on September 23, 2010. In October 2010, the Department convened a committee of mathematics educators to further review and refine the analysis. The review committee identified several concepts in Virginia’s Curriculum Framework for the 2009 Mathematics Standards of Learning that need to be added or strengthened to ensure that Virginia’s standards are equal to or more rigorous in content and scope than the Mathematics Common Core State Standards.
Clearly the Va Dept of Ed is taking steps to ensure that instruction in schools in Virginia is aligned with the expectations set forth in the Common Core. All of which is rather confusing from a state that has said it will not be adopting the Common Core. The Governor and State Superintendent of Schools have publicly stated that Virginia will not be adopting the Common Core Standards, but that’s clearly not true as these changes to the Curriculum Frameworks demonstrate. I can’t but wonder whether this is being done with the full knowledge and consent of the General Assembly, as adapting the Curriculum Frameworks is kind of a back door approach to adopting and implementing the Common Core Standards that circumvents having to deal with the General Assembly or notify the public that the Va Dept of Ed will no longer be in charge of defining what students in Virginia schools learn.