Harrisburg — For different reasons, Senate Democrats and Republicans both appeared skeptical of the PA Department of Education’s Common Core Curriculum Standards. Devised in 2010 upon recommendation from the National Governor’s Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, these are set to be implemented in fall of this year.
The goal of this program is to set new minimum achievement levels for students to reach in both Math and English. The standards are argued to provide comprehensive student assessment all throughout grade school.
Democratic Chair Andrew E. Dinniman (D-Chester), hoping for a moratorium on implementation, declared repeatedly that the move to new standards amounted to an unfunded mandate which the Democratic Caucus would not support. He quickly noted that the Democrats opposition based on fiscal grounds is ironic.
Sen. Rob Teplitz (D-Dauphin) when discussing the implications of Common Core went so far as to suggest that they may lead to greater school privatization if low performing schools are forced to accept the changes and then fail to meet new standards.
Senate Chairman Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon) said, “My greatest concern about standardization is that our kids aren’t big macs, students are individuals, this will take away creativity from the classroom.”
These sentiments were supported by the first panel invited to speak on the issue, comprised of representatives from the Cato institute, Heartland Institute and Commonwealth Education Foundation. They argued against the curriculum – some even challenging the premise that standardized testing yields results.
Common Core was supported at the hearing by PA Deputy Secretary of Education, Dr. Carolyn Dumaresq along with the CEO of the Pennsylvania Partnership for Children, and CEO of the Pennsylvania Business Council. They asserted that Common Core is not a national curriculum, that it was created with teacher, school official, and legislative input, and that schools have had the last three years to prepare for the standards change since it was decided in 2010.
Common Core advocates say that by bringing all of the states students to a set of minimum standards, those students can be better prepared for post secondary education and the workforce, as well as save money on remedial education later in life.
Chair Dinniman has introduced legislation to block Common Core until questions about where appropriate funding resources for school districts to meet the new standards will come from.