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Real Test After Christie’s Call to Drop Common Core: What Happens Next

Questions arise over who will devise new standards, how long it will take – and even whether it will really happen

Credit: Governor's Office/Tim Larsen
Gov. Chris Christie delivers a speech last week at Stockton State University. He called for dropping the Common Core State Standards but keeping the PARCC testing associated with those standards.

Now what?

In the aftermath of Gov. Chris Christie’s announcement on Thursday that he no longer supports the Common Core State Standards, what are the administration’s plans for setting its own standards for New Jersey’s public schools?

Christie said the first step would be to form a commission, made up of parents and teachers, to review the current standards and make recommendations for changes by the end of the year.

But the state Department of Education on Friday wasn’t yet offering details of that plan, with a spokesman saying it would be “speculation” at this point.

The president of the State Board of Education – which only a year ago formally reiterated its support of the national Common Core standards – said he, too, was unsure about the next move. The board would ultimately have to adopt any new state standards.

“I have no idea what we’ll do, that’s the honest truth,” said board President Mark Biedron, who was appointed by Christie in 2011. “But this will be the top of the list. It can’t be business as usual, we need to move on this.”

Schools and educators were left in the dark about how to proceed, although some administrators said their staffs would continue to follow the current policy until they hear otherwise.

While disavowing the Common Core standards, Christie said the state would stay with the PARCC testing aligned to those standards – essentially leaving in place any curriculum or other instructional structures.

And some wondered if even the standards themselves could change under this administration.

“What’s the process to all this, and will people have sufficient time to adapt?” asked Edward Richardson, executive director of the New Jersey Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union.

“I’m telling you, there is a policy fatigue in schools,” he said in an interview Friday. “It’s been one after another of really major changes, and here comes another.”

The NJEA and several other of the state’s major education organizations were summoned to meet at the education department on Tuesday to hear further details, Richardson and other advocates said.

New Jersey is not the first state to take this zig-zagging path, with Republican governors in Louisiana and Arizona among those who have disavowed the standards in midstream.

But in other states that embarked on reviews like the one called for by Christie, the end result has mostly been standards similar to the Common Core – just rebranded as state-developed.

“My guess is that is what will happen in New Jersey,” said Patrick McGuinn, a politics professor at Drew University who closely follows federal education policy.

“Christie will appoint a high-profile commission to review the standards and make recommendations, and it will take long enough so that the politics around Common Core will have calmed down and/or Christie is out of the presidential race or out of the governor’s seat,” he said.

Still, Christie is the first governor to call for dropping the Common Core standards while staying with the testing, according to the PARCC consortium.

That left more than a few people befuddled.

A spokesman for the PARCC group said one is not a requisite of the other, but all of the PARCC states are also Common Core states. The few states that dropped PARCC either stayed with Common Core or withdrew from it later.

“I’m not aware of any state before New Jersey that moved away Common Core and later left PARCC,” said PARCC spokesman David Connerty-Marin.

The governor was hardly backing off the announcement on Friday, speaking at Belmar press event about his rationale for putting the standards in the hands of New Jersey parents and educators.

“We don’t have buy-in from parents, we don’t have buy-in from educators,” Christie said of the Common Core. “They feel as if it’s been imposed upon them from Washington, that their voice hasn’t been heard.

“And if you’re going to have the best local education you can have, you have to have your local educators and those families buying into what you’re trying to do.”

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