In June, the House passed House Resolution 338 , proposing revisions to Chapter 4, based on concerns about Common Core standards. In response to HR 338, the State Board of Education held a public forum in July that resulted in proposed amendments to Chapter 4 that would:
- Change the name of the Common Core standards to “PA Core Standards.”
- Make the standards applicable only to public schools. Private, religious and home school communities would be exempt.
- Assure there will be no national tests or assessments, except if one is deemed necessary for special education students and then only in consultation with parents, teachers and other interested parties.
- Student data collection will NOT be expanded due to implementation of the standards.
Assure that required reading lists and curriculum will remain a local decision At an August 5 House Education Committee hearing on Common Core, committee members questioned representatives from PDE and the State Board of Education about these revised safeguards. Majority Chair Representative Clymer closed with some advice for his colleagues. When constituents contact him, fearful of a national curriculum being imposed on their children, he tells them to contact their local superintendents and teachers. Why? Because Representative Clymer knows they are the individuals who can best explain and reassure that such decisions have always been and will remain local.
On August 26, the Senate Education Committee held a hearing on the topic of Keystone Exams at Valley Forge Middle School. Representatives from the PA State Board and PDE provided testimony, along with administrators, parents and school board members. A parent spoke of the frustration of her daughter, a stellar student with an outstanding GPA, who could not pass a Keystone exam and worried about receiving a diploma. Superintendents spoke of the hours and resources needed to administer the tests. Retired Senator and former Majority Chair of the Senate Education Committee, Jeff Piccola, provided background on the origin of the exams. Written testimony and video of the hearing can be accessed at: http://senaterepublicannews.com/committees/education/2013/082613/agenda.htm
The Senate Education Committee held another hearing on August 29 in Harrisburg on the topic of Common Core standards. The hearing was similar in format to the August 5 House hearing.
Prior to the hearing, Senator Mike Folmer, Majority Chair of the Education Committee, encouraged the public to submit questions via an online system. Questions were received from across the Commonwealth. There were also numerous questions posed by the Senate Committee, concerning data collection, assessment vendors, and implementation costs. On the subject of cost, PDE and the PA State Board maintain such costs are difficult to determine, arguing the costs of implementation involve instruction and assessment, areas in which districts already budget for. However, the Senate Committee maintains that many of their districts report they have incurred additional costs implementing the standards in such areas as staff development, assessment administration and student remediation. Video of the hearing can be accessed at: http://pasenategop.com/committees/education/2013/082913/agenda.htm
In addition, both the House and Senate Committees argued that financially distressed districts who do not have adequate funding for learning essentials such as staff and texts, will be hit hardest during implementation. The response from the PA State Board Chair: all districts need to make do with what they have to implement the standards as best they can.
The Senate has repeatedly asked for a breakdown, by district, of additional costs associated with implementing the standards. Acting Secretary of Education Carolyn Dumaresq promised to supply the numbers to the Committee. Bottom line for the Senate: if they do not receive the breakdown of costs, then revised Chapter 4, which is scheduled to be voted on by the PA Board of Education in mid-September, will not make it out of the Senate Education Committee.