Minnesota Limits Common Core Adoption to Reading Only

The adoption of Common Core Standards is moving ahead in Minnesota, and students’ parents are being warned via letter to expect lower standardized test scores this year as a result. Brenda Cassellius, the state’s Education Commissioner, explained that new, more rigorous tests which are in line with the more challenging English Arts curriculum are behind the change, writes Tim Post for Minnesota Public Radio.

Although Minnesota is in the company of 45 states and the District of Columbia that have pledged to make their education standards compliant with the centrally developed framework, the state has decided to draw the line at adopting the reading portion of Common Core. Minnesota plans to continue to use its own math standards because officials believe that, simply, their own standards are better.

The implementation of Common Core reading standards will move ahead, though it may be several years before their impact can be analyzed. Minnesota recognizes that this year’s reading scores will not allow for easy progress assessment compared to last year since the tests are designed to meet different sets of expectations. Education experts will need to wait for additional data to come in before drawing conclusions as to whether Minnesota’s school reform efforts are paying dividends when it comes to student achievement.

Concerned that students in the United States were losing ground to their international counterparts in college and career readiness, education leaders from several states began writing the Common Core standards in 2009. They received guidance from the National Governor’s Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers and funding from private foundations. Much of the money, about $150 million, came from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The new reading tests have also been redesigned to eliminate the possibility of students making educated guesses at the answers, instead requiring them to read and fully understand each passage before answering questions. In light of that, Cassellius felt that a preemptive warning to parents that scores are likely to fall as a result would head off protests when the scores were made public.

Several states have experience a backlash to Common Core adoption in recent months with politicians, educators and citizens questioning the value of the standards — a messy situation Minnesota would like to avoid.

As Minnesota moves ahead, albeit partially, with the system of national standards, advocates of the Common Core standards are dealing with a political backlash from state legislatures, which must sign off on the requirements. So far, state lawmakers in Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Georgia, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Alabama, South Carolina and Utah have considered repealing implementation of the new standards. Leading the charge against the new national standards are members of conservative groups and some liberal organizations who fear the Common Core represents overreach by the federal government into decisions about curriculum best made at the local level.