Lawmakers and educators split on repealing Common Core

Published 6:00 pm Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Lawmakers and educators in the Greater Valley Area are split on the Alabama Senate’s most recent decision to repeal the Common Core academic standards from public schools by the 2021-2022 school year.

Senators voted 23-7 for the bills this past Thursday, and that now it moves to the Alabama House of Representatives. State Sen. Randy Price, R-Opelika, representing District 13, voted yes for the bill.

The Common Core standards are math and English benchmarks adopted by more than 40 states to identify what students should know after completing each grade. The standards were developed by the National Governors Association but became a frequent target of Republicans after the Obama administration pushed states to adopt them.

Email newsletter signup

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, who sponsored the repeal legislation, said state test scores have failed to improve under Common Core standards.

“It’s time to move on,” said Marsh, a Republican from Anniston in a news conference before introducing the bill. “We need to clear the slate. Just go ahead and get this out of the way. Let’s focus on new standards for the state that are going to solve these problems.”

He said after 10 years, the state is 49th in math and 46th the reading.

“We can’t keep going in that direction,” he said.

The bill passed in the senate would require the Alabama Board of Education to replace existing Common Core standards with new standards adopted by the Alabama Administrative Procedure Act, and those standards, once created, would be known as the Alabama Core Standards.

Within in the bill, there is language to suggest the new standards will not affect the use of college entrance exams, workforce skills assessment, advanced placement courses, career technical credentials and other measures of academic success.

Rep. Bob Fincher, R-Wedowee, of District 37, said he’s been an opponent of Common Core since before joining the Legislature. His career before politics spanned 31 years as a teacher in public schools in Randolph County.

He supports eliminating Common Core, but said the state has to be careful that there aren’t any unintended consequences.

“We are not looking to water down the curriculum in any way,” Fincher said. “We want to have Alabama standards for Alabama students.”

He said it’s essential to protect the job training problems and allow students to take AP classes, but he wants those standards to be developed by the state. He said it’s his thought that if Common Core is eliminated, the standards revert to what they were before the implementation.

Fincher said the state doesn’t need to keep Common Core any longer than it has to, but he’s aware the state can’t just kill the program without a replacement.

“I believe we need some time to work on a plan. I am not opposed to having a quick phase-out,” he said. “Because the test scores are based on common core — we have done nothing but go downhill.”

Fincher is a member of the House Education Policy Committee, which will see the bill first when the lawmakers return to session in early April. He said he’ll be looking closely for any ramifications that come with codifying the law.

Phillip Johnson, superintendent of Lanett City Schools, said he’s disappointed that representatives in Montgomery once again failed to get information from the education community before attempting to make sweeping changes to education law.

“Our district has spent thousands of dollars in teacher training and curriculum materials to implement the current standards,” Johnson said in an emailed statement. “This change would affect what teachers are required to teach and what the state assessments measure.”

He said the standards would not match, and it will impact test scores.

“Representatives in Montgomery expect teachers to have great test scores on material not taught,” he said. “Our neighboring state education employees do not have to fight this battle over and over.”

Rep. Debbie Wood, R-Valley, of District 38, said when she was campaigning for her current seat, several students wanted to end Common Core — mostly because parents didn’t know how to help their children with homework.

“I think if you set an individual up in the family early to fail as a student, that’s what happens,” she said.

She said she’s going to have to do more work to figure out where she falls on the issue because she said educators are telling her by repealing the act, there will be no standard.

“I am a firm believer that if parents cannot assist their children with homework, and assist their child with learning, then you set the child up to fail,” she said.

Wood is referring to students in elementary school, not necessarily in advanced classes in high school. Her biggest sticking point is that the test scores haven’t improved under Common Core and parents aren’t supporting the program.

“Two-thirds of the pie isn’t there,” she said. “A third should be that the educators are on board, another is that parents are on board and the third component is that we are seeing people learn on a different level, and it is improving where we are as a state.

“The measures aren’t there. If we aren’t going up, then something is wrong.”

Dr. Kelli Hodge, superintendent of Chambers County Schools, couldn’t be reached for comment, but at a recent Board of Education meeting, she urged individuals to call their representatives to oppose the bill. She said the district has been working to align to the standards, but if the law goes through, it’ll put the school system behind again.