The 16-member Governor’s Council on Common Core Review will need more specifics, particularly about the testing process, Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin, the committee’s chair, said at the conclusion of a day of hearings at the Capitol and then a listening tour session at the Pulaski Technical College Little Rock-South campus Thursday (April 23).
Gov. Asa Hutchinson appointed the council during the legislative session to study the Common Core State Standards, a group of common standards in math and English Language Arts adopted by 43 states and the District of Columbia.
While the standards originally were proposed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, they later were encouraged by grants from the federal Department of Education and have come under fire from conservatives who consider them an example of federal overreach. The number of states participating in the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), a consortium of states where students are taking a common exam, has fallen from 24 to nine. Arkansas legislators voted to keep the state in the consortium this year.
Griffin said he was encouraged by the day. He said hundreds of people were watching the livestream of the Capitol hearings. He said the video could be a resource for other states.
“I think today was a great first day in the sense that the people on the council were genuinely interested in not a particular outcome, but in really getting to the bottom of this,” he said. “I think that we made a lot of headway in the sense that the testing keeps really coming up more than I thought. I mean, the testing has dominated the conversation from the witnesses and the public in there.”
Griffin believes the council can reach a consensus on recommendations for the governor. However, he said it will be asking witnesses for more specific recommendations.
“Without the specifics, all we have is people saying there’s room for change,” he said.
He expects more specifics to come when the council focuses on subjects such as math and data privacy, and that more time will be needed to consider testing, which he said survey data had shown is the one area where teachers “are clearly dissatisfied.”
During the listening tour session at Pulaski Tech, parents and others in a small audience offered varying opinions about the standards. One parent said her son was excelling until their school moved to the standards and now is earning an F. She expressed concerns about some of the procedures involved in testing.
Another parent said her daughter was doing well, but expressed concern that she wasn’t being challenged with harder material because teachers had to focus on other students. She said too many resources are being devoted to standards and not enough to other needs. Another parent said she likes the Common Core because common standards are important in a mobile society.
Some council members indicated that some of the problems being discussed are the result of local district implementation and communication, not necessarily the standards themselves. Griffin said in the hearing that too much of a top-down approach had been taken.
“I think a lot of people thought, ‘We’ll just do this and the parents will come along,’ and you can’t top-down stuff,” he said. “You’ve got to bottom-up it. And if people don’t agree or buy into what you’re doing, it’s a problem, particularly in a democracy.”