PHILADELPHIA – Delaware Governor Jack Markell defended the new Common Core English and math state standards at a meeting here Thursday, dismissing the contention that national benchmarks for what students should be learning are part of a “high-level conspiracy from the federal government” to impose its standards on states.
“This has been done from the ground up, with teachers,” the governor said at a conference of education writers. Developing a common set of high standards, he said, is essential for preparing each state's students to compete against students in other parts of the country and the rest of the world.
“We've been doing the academic equivalent of having our students practice basketball by shooting at an eight-foot basket,” he said. “The problem is when you get into a game and you're competing against players who have been practicing shooting at a regulation height, which is a 10-foot basket.” Markell is co-chair of the Common Core State Standards Initiative.
Although 45 states have signed on in full for the standards since the project was announced in 2009, the new standards for teaching English and Math have come under fire recently. Last week, the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council was scheduled to vote on a proposal to formally oppose the standards, but delayed its vote.
In Alabama, one of the states currently signed on for the standards, the state senate approved a resolution calling on the state superintendent of education to consider revoking adoption of the Common Core “to retain complete control over Alabama's academic standards, curriculum, instruction, and testing system.”
Utah legislators unsuccessfully introduced a bill urging the state's Board of Education to reconsider its adoption of the standards. The bill died, but the Board held a public meeting last month to solicit public opinions about the standards at the request of Governor Gary Herbert, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. Earlier this year, South Carolina governor Nikki Haley supported a bill introduced in the Senate to block adoption of the Common Core. The measure hasn't yet made it out of the senate, though.
The standards were developed jointly by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers with the help of teachers, school administrators and experts. The U.S. Department of Education has incentivized states to adopt them through its Race to the Top competition and its No Child Left Behind waiver process.
As part of Race to the Top, the Department provided more than $300 million in stimulus dollars to two consortia of states developing tests for the standards. Critics of the standards argue that they represent a federal intrusion into state education standards.