Alabama Politicians Mull Common Core Opt-Out

On March 3, in Mobile, Alabama, the Mobile County school board passed a resolution which opposed Senate Bill 443, legislation that would give school boards the option to disregard or alter the Alabama College and Career Ready Standards, the state's version of Common Core. In 2010, the Alabama State Board of Education adopted the Common Core for math and English.

Senate Bill 443 would allow local school systems to implement their own academic standards for English and math, so long as the local standards satisfy the curriculum standards in place before the Common Core took effect. Those standards date from 1999 and 2003.

Sally Pearsall Ericson writes that for each system in the state which decides to opt-out of the Core Curriculum, an alternate curriculum choice would be created which would be reviewed by a new bureau, the Standards Advisory Commission. Schools Superintendent Martha Peek disagrees with the bill's premise.

"Adoption of Senate Bill 443 would render useless all current locally developed curriculum, instructional resources, professional development in the areas of mathematics and English language arts … all recently purchased textbooks, digital content and instructional materials, because these resources are not aligned with the antiquated 1999 and 2003 standards for English language arts and mathematics," the resolution reads.

Also, the proposed legislation would usurp the authority of the State Board of Education, "and result in inconsistent and inadequate educational standards from city to city and county to county across the State of Alabama," the resolution reads.

President of the school board Reginald Crenshaw agrees with Peek and added that other school systems in the state would add their names to the list of opposition to the bill. Mr. Crenshaw thinks that, in essence, the Legislature would be taking over the job of the State Board of Education. Both Peek and Crenshaw intend to speak to the Senate Education Committee to emphasize that this is an educational issue, and administering academic standards should rest on the shoulders of the educators.

The controversy has pitted Republican against Republican. Tea Party groups are against the Common Core, accusing "the standards of undermining local control of curricula and expounding what they consider anti-American propaganda," writes Brian Lyman of The Montgomery Advertiser. Others in the Republican Party are convinced that giving school systems a choice would negatively affect learning and actually harm schools. Sen Dick Brewbaker, a Republican, voted for the bill, but stated that he thought the choice of opting-out or not should be relegated to the local districts themselves.

Many teachers, represented by Suzanne Culbreth, Alabama's 2013 Teacher of the Year, said that they stood behind the Common standards and had seen continued higher-level reasoning and improved test scores from their students. "Alabama is one of 45 states to adopt the standards that were developed by the National Governors' Association and tied to federal Race to the Top grants by the Obama administration", reports Kim Chandler of the Sun Herald.

Bill and Melinda Gates surveyed 20,000 teachers, most of whom said they think the education standards "will make a positive difference for most students".

03 18, 2014
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