Published Wednesday, July 24, 2013 at 4:42 pm / Updated at 4:42 pm
Survey: States sticking with Common Core standards

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Education officials in most of the states that have adopted Common Core standards say they will go forward with the benchmarks for reading, writing and math despite objections, according to a survey released Wednesday.

The independent nonprofit Center on Education Policy at George Washington University said 37 of the 40 states that responded to its survey this spring considered it unlikely that they would reverse, limit or change their decision to adopt the Common Core education standards during the upcoming school year. The center didn't identify the states that participated but noted that some of the states that didn't respond were dealing with pushback - a factor that could affect the results.

The new Common Core standards replace a hodgepodge of educational goals that had varied greatly from state to state. The federal government was not involved in the state-led effort to develop them but has encouraged the project. The only states not to adopt the standards are Alaska, Nebraska, Texas and Virginia. Minnesota adopted the reading but not the math standards.

While proponents say the new standards will better prepare students, critics worry they'll set a national curriculum for public schools rather than letting states decide what is best for their students.

Efforts to slow down or derail the standards sprung up this year in Kansas, Missouri, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Indiana, Alabama, South Carolina and Utah. Meanwhile, the Republican National Committee passed a resolution calling the standards an "inappropriate overreach."

Maria Ferguson, executive director of the Center on Education Policy, dismissed the efforts against the standards. "School districts and states are practical," she said. "The resources that have been put into this are pretty profound. And you have to think about, if not this, what?"

Most states described overcoming resistance to the Common Core as either a minor or nonexistent challenge, the survey found. Only two states found that that overcoming resistance from colleges and universities was a major challenge. And only five felt that overcoming resistance from outside the education system was a major challenge.

The opposition, however, wasn't convinced.

"I still think there are lingering questions, to say the very least," said Jonathan Butcher, education director for the Phoenix-based conservative Goldwater Institute, which has opposed the standards. He said the big issue is the rollout of new tests designed around the new standards. The tests are electronic, and one concern is that states lack the bandwidth and enough computers to administer them.

Two upcoming reports from the Center on Education Policy will look specifically at testing issues, Ferguson said.

People who say the federal government has gone too far point to the money provided to consortiums developing Common Core tests. They also note that the Education Department encouraged states to adopt the standards to compete for "Race to the Top" grants and seek waivers around some of the unpopular proficiency requirements of the No Child Left Behind education law.

Given that controversy, the survey asked states whether they wanted federal help - both financial and through an update to the federal education law - implementing the standards. Thirty states said they'd like federal help with the rollout of new tests tied to the Common Core and teacher and principal training.

The survey noted that lawmakers had started work on reauthorizing No Child Left Behind.

"To date," the report concluded, "the federal government has played an indirect but significant role in states' adoption and implementation of the Common Core ... A key question is whether the opponents of the Common Core in Congress will use the reauthorization to curtail the current federal role or whether supporters will expand federal assistance for this major new national education policy."

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