New Website Gives Voice to Pennsylvania on Common Core

The Pennsylvania Department of Education plans on launching a website next month that will allow public comments to be made concerning the state’s new reading and math standards.

In a re-examination of the Pennsylvania Core Standards, modeled after the Common Core, the website will offer information concerning what content students will be learning at each grade level, as well as sample questions for state exams.

The first content to be listed on the website will be third grade standards, which will be available on October 15.  Other grades will be added by mid-November.

The website will allow parents to offer comments and suggestions pertaining to the standards, which the State Board will look at and take into consideration at public hearings.

“We want to demystify these conversations about what Common Core is and what Pennsylvania Core standards are. If we need to make changes, we will,” Acting Secretary of Education Carolyn Dumaresq said. “But let’s first make sure we understand what we’re talking about.”

In the meantime, students will continue to learn according to the Pennsylvania Core Standards approved by the board last year and initiated in schools this March.

“There’s a law in place and regulations in place that will stay in place until they are changed,” Dumaresq said. “You can’t stop it until you have something to put in its place. And it takes two years to replace it.”

Those who support the move include college officials and business and military leaders, who view it as way to make sure students gain the skills necessary to get them ready for life after high school, including college, the workplace or the armed forces.

Critics, however, see it as an unfunded mandate on underfunded schools that standardizes curriculum and the education that children receive, while impeding local control.

The State Board has made moves to change the standards in an effort to please the critics.  Despite these changes, opposition continues to grow.

In calling on the State Board to conduct a review of the standards on Monday, Governor Tom Corbett said this well-intentioned state-led initiative “has been overly influenced by the federal government. Common Core has become nothing more than a top-down takeover of the education system.”

According to Dumaresq, the review will help to educate the public concerning the standards.  She said the department has not done its job in communicating to parents about the new standards, which have taken three years to put in place, and the review will hopefully open the conversation with the public more clearly.

Dumaresq also mentioned that if the position the public takes is one of opposition, and a considerable amount of changes are asked for, she said “I hope we would be open to listening to people.”