OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – Apparently I am a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  I’ve been called a number of things before, but this is a first.  Charlotte Iserbyt decided to take a swipe at me while calling the Oklahoma repeal fake.

oklahoma-flagIserbyt seems long on accusations and short on facts, but I don’t want to make this post about me.  I don’t really care about that, but I am deeply concerned about the subversive effect her article has on not only the grassroots work done in Oklahoma but other states as well.  Regarding the crux of her article – that Oklahoma passed a “fake repeal” – Iserbyt also seems to be long on complaints and short on solutions.

Iserbyt’s article unfortunately was circulated around social media this weekend.  Instead of recreating the wheel I thought I would share a short, succinct rebuttal that Jenni White of Restore Oklahoma Public Education gave.

1. Once they are written, the new standards have to be compared BY LAW against common core.

2. The new standards must have legislative approval BY LAW before they can be adopted, so all those interested in reviewing the standards can ask their legislator to address the parts of the standards that appear problematic and

3. The term ‘college and career readiness’ which is believed to be a placeholder for Common Core, is defined in the bill – specifically – as those standards approved by higher ed and career tech.

Now, does passage of this bill mean we all go back to sleep knowing Common Core is dead in Oklahoma? ABSOLUTELY NOT! There is an election this month on the 24 to help determine a new school superintendent. There is an election in November to determine who will be our next governor. If you are convinced our leadership is playing us for fools, stop complaining and criticizing our efforts and get out there and change the course of these elections! To the victor goes the spoils! We have shown we can beat the big money – just us poor voting patents! Get out there and continue making a difference. Finish what you started! We can make our government work for us, we’ve shown that! Never, never, never give up!

Jenni’s advice, which I would second, is to read the bill for yourself.

I also wanted to address their complaint that Oklahoma’s NCLB waiver request was amended to change the words of “Common Core” to “College and Career Ready.”  Since I “don’t have enough of a background in education” (according to Iserbyt) I thought I’d include some comments that Ze’ev Wurman shared in order to clarify why this change was made (his comments are italicized):

Under NCLB each state had to have K-12 standards, and a definition of “proficiency” that goes with them. The name of the standards, or their academic strength, or the level of that proficiency, were left to the states. The only thing the feds (USED) insisted is that the state takes the bi-annual NAEP so that tracking of overall state student achievement — the only truly legitimate function of USED — could be achieved.

NCLB required that all student be proficient in all tested grades (3-8, one HS grade) by 2014, by the state’s own definition of proficiency. Already in 2007, when it became clear that most/all states won’t meet this goal, the focus started to shift from grade-level proficiency to HS graduation. In 2008 USED issued regulations how to uniformly measure HS graduation (but NOT what graduation means or what it takes — each state had its own definitions what it takes to graduate HS). Still, as NCLB was not re-authorized by 2008, the old grade-level proficiency goals stayed in place.

Under Arne Duncan and since 2009, the national (Common Core) standards were pushed to replace the state-specific standards, and the hope was that the federally-sponsored tests going with them will replace state testing and impose uniform cut-scores across states, effectively defining uniform curricular expectations and uniform definition of proficiency across the nation. (This part is still up in the air. Not only have many states bailed out of the consortia, but whether the consortia will be successful in imposing uniform cut-scores for all their members is quite unclear.)

The second major thing that USED hoped to achieve with Common Core under Duncan is to change the national expectations of what graduating a high school means. Until now each state defined what it took (credits, subjects, etc.) and how it could be achieved. Until now, HS graduation in itself did not say anything about whether the student was ready to attend college of one type or another, or vocational post-secondary education, or neither. Each state had its own definition of the necessary coursework and achievement needed to attend state colleges, typically significantly beyond plain HS graduation.  And we’ve had SAT/ACT to help set objective measures of student achievement to assist in enrolling in private and out-of-state colleges. But I am unaware of any state that, for example, expected a particular SAT/ACT achievement level (say over 500 on the SAT) for its HS graduation.

This is only to be expected, because nobody was stupid enough to expect every child to continue to college (or be ready for it), while we expected essentially all students to graduate high school — after all, that’s what mandatory K-12 education is about. But the Common Core changed that: now the expectation was that HS students proficient on Common Core will be “college (and career) ready,” and that Common Core proficiency will become a high school graduation requirement.” In other words, all HS students will now be expected to become college ready.

This “college-readiness” was intended eventually to replace much of the grade-level proficiency under NCLB. The waivers offered states path to that end — they allow states to replace or modify their grade-level proficiency goals, in return for having “career- and college-ready standards,” hopefully attached to their HS graduation. So far this is still in a form of a “push” rather than a requirement. From the USED 2012 flexibility waivers FAQ:

[State] will report annually to the public on college-going and college credit-accumulation rates, as defined under State Fiscal Stabilization Fund (SFSF) Indicators (c)(11) and (c)(12), for all students and subgroups of students in each LEA and each public high school in the State.

If, however, we go back to Obama’s NCLB re-authorization blueprint from March 2010, the ultimate direction of making HS graduation equal college-readiness is quite explicit:

To ensure that all students are learning what they need to succeed, standards must be based on evidence regarding what students must know and be able to do at each grade level to be on track to graduate from high school college- and career-ready

Getting back to Oklahoma, South Carolina, and other states withdrawing from Common Core, what they face is a decision to give up on their waiver, or to try and keep it. Most will choose to try and keep it. To achieve that, states MUST replace Common Core with their own standards that are labelled “college- and career-ready.” These standards do not have to be Common Core like, and can go much beyond (or even below) Common Core, but they have to be “blessed” by state colleges as preparing students (who are successful on some subset of them) for attending college. That is not much different from the situation before Common Core, where many states already had effectively “college ready” standards even if they didn’t bother to call them so — if you took them up to, say, Algebra 1, you were good only for HS graduation. If you took them up to Algebra 2 or pre-calculus, you were deemed not only graduating HS but also “college ready.”

To summarize, having state standards that are “career- and college-ready” does not necessarily mean they are Common Core with just a name change. They can be that — as in Indiana — or they can be very different, as the Oklahoma HB3399 insists on. Anita Hoge confuses the new name (“college- and career-ready” that is mandatory to retain waivers) with standard’s content. She still may be right in the long run — depends how the Oklahoma standard-rewriting process goes — but on the face of it, HB3399 goes a long way to try and avoid a repeat of Indiana.

To echo what Jenni White and Ze’ev Wurman are saying here. Could a rebranding occur? Perhaps, it is not outside the realm of possibility. However, it certainly is not inevitable as Iserbyt suggests.  Also it is something that we will be watching for.  Nobody’s resting on their laurels.  That said, we can celebrate a victory, it’s just unfortunate that Iserbyt refuses to celebrate with us.

Authored by Shane Vander Hart

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