Education standards in Oklahoma remain in a holding pattern with the death of Common Core by the state legislature in May.
House Bill 3399 required all schools return to Priority Academic Student Skills Standards, also known as PASS, until new standards could be developed.
But, as KOSU’s Michael Cross shows us, not all schools are choosing to throw Common Core into the dumpster.
Stillwater High school students are traveling through their Pioneer halls once again following a summer which saw the final nail in the coffin of Common Core State Standards.
In July, the State Supreme Court ruled House Bill 3399 constitutional, thus ending Common Core in Oklahoma.
Or did it?
School officials in Stillwater spent the past four years getting curriculum ready for Common Core which was supposed to take effect this year.
Not a cheap endeavor, according to Stillwater Superintendent Ann Caine.
“We spent over $70,000 in summer training for our teachers. They have given hundreds of hours to implementing Common Core. We believe it’s good for kids. We’ve spent, I don’t know how many, hundreds of thousands of dollars—that’s no joke, because we spend $500,000 a year on new textbooks.”
Caine says after much discussion they decided to stay the course with Common Core rather than reverting to the standards written more than a decade ago.
“The PASS objectives came out in 2003 so we’re really, the legislature is having us revert back to something we did 11 years ago which is a little crazy.”
Most educators across the state are calling this “PASS Plus” which uses Common Core standards when it exceeds PASS Standards.
Of the nearly 520 school districts across Oklahoma, the Cooperative Council of Oklahoma School Administration estimates about 50-percent of schools are using PASS Plus, just like Stillwater.
Outgoing Superintendent Janet Barresi says the State Department of Education has no problems with keeping some of the lessons learned from Common Core.
“Developing literacy across subject matter, having students write from a context of evidence, critical thinking skills, an application of knowledge and problem solving.”
But, not everybody is thrilled with the plan to keep parts of Common Core.
The conservative group Restore Oklahoma Public Education worked hard to kill the new standards and has received letters from upset parents.
ROPE President Jenni White who homeschools her kids, says in this nation people need to follow the law.
“To me what those superintendents are saying to their children and the parents particularly is ‘we just don’t need to follow the law we’ll pick and choose the laws we need to follow thank you very much’. And, I think that’s a dreadful thing to teach parents.”
But, then there’s the matter of books and training material which cost the taxpayer hundreds of thousands of dollars.
White says she’s not sure what to do with them since she doesn’t want them sold to other states where ROPE is working to also end Common Core.
“At some point you have to straighten it out. We all make mistakes that we wish we hadn’t made with our individual money that we have. So, sometimes it’s just lessons learned and as hard and painful as they are. It just is what it is.”
Under House Bill 3399, the Board of Education is tasked with creating new standards which are even more rigorous than Common Core.
An endeavor which could take several years.
Back in Stillwater, Caine says, until those new standards are handed down, her teachers will stay the course on Common Core.
“We know that what we’re doing now is good for students and that we’re turning out students that are ready for college or career and we’re going to let the craziness keep happening at the Capitol. We’re not going to let politics drive what we’re doing here.”
The repeal of Common Core only affected math and reading while science and social studies remain under Oklahoma state standards.
ROPE’s Jenni White says her group also plans to tackle the standards in Social Studies and Science in future years.
In the next part of our series, we’ll look at what the future might look like for standards in our state.