With debate about the Common Core State Standards and related testing at a steady boil, the Christie administration and the state Board of Education yesterday turned the heat up as they responded to critics.
The board in its monthly meeting — postponed from last week — voted unanimously for a resolution reaffirming its support of the new nationwide standards that have been adopted in more than 40 states.
The State Board first adopted the Common Core in 2010, but members said yesterday they want to reiterate their support in the face of critics from both the left and the right who have said the state is moving too fast to implement the more rigorous benchmarks.
“We feel the Common Core represents exactly what we should be looking for,” said board member Ronald Butcher, who crafted the resolution.
He said the idea of a second resolution was the result of pressure, much of it from out-of-state groups who view the standards as federal mandates that usurp local control.
Butcher cited a petition circulated among some districts that requested parents have a chance to “opt-out” of the standards.
“The whole purpose of the resolution was to communicate to school administrators and school boards that they do not have the authority to opt out,” Butcher said.
The board’s action came as debate is rising in and outside Trenton as to whether the state should moderate its march to the standards. That is particularly true of the online testing component — known as PARCC, for the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers — that is scheduled to be rolled out starting in 2015.
An Assembly committee hearing this week witnessed several of the state’s most prominent education groups calling for a delay in the new testing, or at least its consequences for schools and teachers.
Legislation has already been filed calling for a task force to review the new standards and testing before they are fully put in place.
But led by state Education Commissioner Chris Cerf, the administration used yesterday’s state board meeting as an opportunity to rebut such talk.
Testifying before the board, assistant commissioner Bari Erlichson yesterday cited the decade it required some districts under the state’s previous standards to adopt any curricula at all. She said too much work was underway to pull back deadlines now.
“The calls for delayed implementation simply aren’t practical,” she said. “We began this work more than a year before many of our sister states, our districts have aggressively developed and devised new curricula, and our current assessments have been aligned to the standards in a very thoughtful way.”
Cerf, in his last meeting with the board since he announced this week his plans to leave the post by the end of the month, was defiant .
“When you hear the clarion call of ‘delay, delay, delay, wait, wait, wait,’ I just want to make sure a point comes across: This state has engaged in a very thoughtful process that began before many states, and that has been really focused on providing the support and tools to teachers to be successful,” he said.
The adoption of the new standards and the testing has been a central piece of Cerf’s list of accomplishments.
Still, how much the latest resolution changes the debate is uncertain, since there appears to be little letup among some in the Legislature to at least take a second look at the state’s current path. With Cerf about to depart, the new commissioner may want to follow his or her own course of action as well.
Butcher yesterday after the meeting stressed that his resolution only spoke to the standards themselves, not the testing or other subsequent steps that will follow.
“The Common Core is a set of objectives of where we should be focusing our instruction,” he said. “That is what we dealt with today. That doesn’t say anything about PARCC or the teacher evaluation systems. Those are two separate things, and I specifically did not mention those in this.”