Chris Digs Into Conflicting Reports on Common Core

There have been conflicting statements made by ND officials about what's happening with Common Core in our state. We look into it.

FULL TEXT: Email from ND United in Response to Common Core Questions

From: North Dakota United

Sent: Friday, May 6, 2016 9:49 AM
Subject: President Archuleta answers your questions on Common Core

Action Network Email

FAQ About North Dakota and the Common Core State Standards (CCSS)

There has been a lot of confusion surrounding the recent announcement from the Department of Public Instruction that English Language Arts and Mathematics State Standards will be reviewed and revised starting this summer. Media reported that this was the end of Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in North Dakota. Is this true?

We asked North Dakota United President Nick Archuleta a few of the more common questions that we have received from members across the state. Below you will find his answers to your questions.

Q: Is it true that the N.D. Department of Public Instruction has announced that N.D. willwithdraw from the CCSS?

A: No, it is not true. Superintendent Baesler held a press conference recently at which she announced the formation of a standards review and writing committee comprised of N.D. elementary, middle and high school teachers, as well as university faculty. This committee will be responsible for reviewing the Math and English Language Arts content standards, which are based on the CCSS.

[CLICK HERE to listen to Superintendent Baesler's interview with Joel Heitkamp on "News & Views," in which she confirms her support for CCSS.]

Q: Is the process of evaluating and modifying the standards new?

A: No, it is not new. North Dakota’s standards have been subject to review and modification since the very beginning. In fact, it would not surprise me to learn that you know someone has served on one of the standards writing committees at some point in their careers.

Q: Is there anything I should know beyond how the process of evaluating and modifying the content standards works?

A: Yes, there is. Superintendent Baesler, in an attempt to add transparency to the practice, has allowed for the formation of three review committees: one comprised of legislators, one comprised of leaders in business and industry, and a third comprised of parents. This is in addition to the public comments that are traditionally received when standards are reviewed and/or rewritten.

Q: Will these three committees have the power to veto or change the work of the N.D. teachers who serve on the content standards writing committees?

A: No, they will not. The Superintendent has made it very clear that the observations of these three review committees may inform the work of the content standards writing committee, but the committee has the right to absolutely disregard those observations, as well. The three committees will make their comments after the first draft is written.

Q: As NDU President and a professional educator, are you upset with Superintendent Baeslerfor her handling of Common Core?

A: No, not at all. The headlines that were generated by the press conference did not fairly represent the content that was presented at the press conference. Superintendent Baesler didn’t say that Common Core was being thrown out. By and large, teachers like the CCSS. School districts like the CCSS. Both groups recognize that teachers have utilized these high standards to help their students develop the necessary skills to succeed academically. School districts have expended considerable resources implementing the standards and training the teachers of their districts to teach the standards. Remember, it will be N.D. Math and ELA teachers who will be on the standards writing committee. They will have free rein to evaluate and modify these standards as they see fit. Anyone who tells you that we are pulling out of CCSS is putting the cart waaayyy out in front of before the horse. They are presupposing the outcome of the committee’s work when the members of the committee have not yet been selected. In fact, the application has only today been made available on the DPI website. Click here to go to the DPI website and download your application when it becomes available!

Q: So what does this mean for N.D.’s relationship with the Smarter Balanced Consortium?

A: The work of the Math and ELA Content Standards writing committee will begin this summer. The goal is to have the work completed by the spring of 2017 and the standards, modified or not, to be implemented in the fall of 2017. N.D. will use the Smarter Balanced test in the spring of 2017, because it is aligned with the standards that will be used in the 2016-17 school year. However, once the standards are finished, a Request for Proposals will be issued by DPI, and Smarter Balanced will be just one of several vendors who will compete for the state’s business.

I’d like to finish this with a personal observation, if I may. North Dakotans love their schools and the professional educators who dedicate their lives to improving the lives of their children. A recent Gallup Poll, released on March 16 of this year, noted that 89 percent of North Dakotans are satisfied with the quality of our state’s education system. Eight-nine percent! That ranked N.D. number one in the country in customer satisfaction! That same percentage agreed that our schools do a superior job preparing our kids for life after high school. Again, in that category, N.D. once more leads the nation! That is a testament to how well you and your colleagues do your important work.

For the last six years, most schools have employed the CCSS. For the last three years, every school in N.D. has employed the CCSS. If these standards were overwhelmingly detrimental to the education of our children, do you think for a minute that North Dakotans would rank their schools and their teachers so highly?

North Dakota United is committed to rising above the noise to ensure that our kids are afforded the very best opportunities to learn and grow. We owe them our best efforts and a laser focus on best practices to ensure their success.

Thank you for doing your important work so well. You are simply the best!