When it comes to student achievement in math and reading, Alabama is near the bottom of the list. If you ask state Sen. Del Marsh, he’d blame Alabama’s poor performance on standards for teaching math and language arts in public schools.
Marsh wants to repeal the nationwide academic standards known as Common Core this legislative session. But the proposal seems to have lost some momentum.
A bill to eliminate Common Core, or academic benchmarks for math and language arts, zipped through the state Senate. But it’s stalled in the House for weeks. It did not come up for a vote at the Education Policy Committee’s Wednesday meeting.
It may have hit a roadblock, but Marsh, the bill’s sponsor, says it’s temporary.
“I am optimistic that before this session is over, we will have a piece of legislation passed that will eliminate common core,” he says.
One big question some lawmakers and business leaders have is if Common Core is eliminated, what academic standards will Alabama have?
Marsh says he’ll leave that to state educators.
The Alabama State Board of Education adopted Common Core several years ago. Those standards grew out of a national effort to establish consistent education goals across the country. That means if a family in Maryland moves to Alabama, their children would cover the same subjects in school and have similar benchmarks.
But Becky Gerritson, executive director of the conservative group Eagle Forum of Alabama, says Common Core doesn’t work.
“We’ve had it long enough for all of this to be implemented and to see some changes in the positive and we haven’t, so it’s time to get out of Common Core,” she says.
Tommy Bice, former state superintendent of education, was part of the national group that developed Common Core standards in 2009.
He says state educators wrote Alabama’s standards and they are effective.
Before Common Core standards took effect in Alabama, Bice says, “Our business and industry leaders were saying that our student weren’t leaving schools ready to think critically.”
Citing a recent report from the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama, he says fewer high school graduates require remediation in college. Bice also points to Alabama’s rising high school graduation rate as a sign that the standards are making a difference.
Leslie Richards, a math specialist in Jefferson County schools, says standards are often misunderstood, and that may be one of the reasons for pushback. But it’s up to educators how to apply those guidelines.
“Standards are like a rib cage or a skeleton that districts then choose to flesh out in whatever way they find most appropriate,” she says.
If the legislature repeals Common Core, Sen. Del Marsh says the state school board would have 18 months to develop new standards.
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