Wyoming lawmakers consider reversing Common Core adoption

2011-09-15T23:45:00Z Wyoming lawmakers consider reversing Common Core adoptionBy JACKIE BORCHARDT Casper Star-Tribune The Billings Gazette
September 15, 2011 11:45 pm  • 

CASPER, Wyo. — Wyoming lawmakers concerned with the state's adoption of national education standards said Thursday that they need more time to consider repealing the decision.

Lawmakers studying a statewide education accountability system directed the Legislature's Joint Interim Education Committee to revisit the adoption decision made in June 2010 by the Wyoming Board of Education.

Standards in language arts and mathematics were developed by the Common Core State Standards Initiative, an effort by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. About 70 educators and parents around the state reviewed the Common Core State Standards and how they compared with Wyoming's current standards. From their reports, nearly one-third of the legislative committee members said the Common Core math standards were too difficult for Wyoming students.

The state school board approved including Common Core standards in language arts and math in new state standards. The standards underwent a public comment period this spring and are scheduled to be officially accepted by the board in November, after one more round of public comment.

Lawmakers learned more about the Common Core, Wyoming's adoption and how the standards have changed on Thursday, but Rep. Matt Teeters, R-Lingle, said the Education Committee needed more time before deciding either to do nothing or to write legislation striking down the state board's decision.

"I'm not comfortable with the fact that we're buying into something that might have ramifications," Teeters said. "There's all kinds of unknowns in my mind, and I'm not settled."

Lawmakers referenced "strings" with the federal government. However, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has said states will not be required to adopt the Common Core to receive a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind Act, but states applying for waivers must demonstrate commitment to high "career- and college-ready" standards.

Sandra Barton, former chairwoman of the state Board of Education, said the Common Core was an effort by state leaders, not the federal government.

"It just basically is a common, clear set of goals and expectations," Barton told legislators. "Educators decide how those standards will be reached, what innovative styles will be used to get there."

Seven school districts have begun incorporating the new standards into plans for this school year, said Cindy Hill, state superintendent of public instruction. Hill said the "pioneer" districts have hired in-state and national consultants to help them transition to new standards.

"They are all doing their own plan, so they are going in different directions," Hill said.

According to the Common Core State Standards Initiative, 44 states and District of Columbia have adopted the standards.

To be considered a Common Core state, states had to accept all of the standards but could add to them, said Tammy Schroeder, a standards consultant at the Wyoming Department of Education. The standards committees chose not to add more.

Schroeder said the standards were designed to build on one another from year to year, like a staircase.

"When you start taking pieces out, it's like taking out chunks of a brick wall — it falls apart," Schroeder said.

Wyoming joined one of two consortia designing assessment items based on the standards last year. If standards are officially adopted, students could be tested on them along with old standards in 2013 and on the new standards alone in 2014, according to the state Department of Education time line.

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