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Bill introduced to cut ties with Common Core

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Lori Hinz

Lori Hinz testified in favor of House Bill 1432 at a hearing of the House Education Committee on Monday morning in the state Capitol in Bismarck. Hinz, of Bismarck, has three children in the Bismarck Public Schools. Seated at right is North Dakota Superintendent of Public Instruction Kirsten Baesler.

State lawmakers have introduced a bill that would cut any remaining ties with Common Core and eliminate "outside control" over course content standards and assessments for North Dakota students.

House Bill 1432, presented Monday to the House Education Committee, is one of a number of bills introduced this session to opt out of Common Core and ties to federal education funding.

"This bill would ensure that (the state has) control over our standards, assessments and curriculum, without the outside influence of the one-size-fits-all approach promoted by the federal government," said the bill's primary sponsor, Rep. Ben Koppelman, R-West Fargo.

During the 2015 session, a legislative effort failed to sever North Dakota's ties with the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, an organization of states that developed the standardized test students take on computers each spring to measure their ability to meet Common Core standards.

Several people spoke strongly against Common Core at Monday's hearing, including parents and community members who said recently revised math and English standards to replace Common Core bear a striking resemblance to it — a claim State Superintendent Kirsten Baesler refuted.

The bill also would limit Baesler's control over the development of course content standards and require the state to implement the Massachusetts standards and assessments that went into effect during the 2008-09 school year.

"Why Massachusetts?" Koppelman said. “It has less to do with politics and more to do with performance.”

Koppelman said Massachusetts' standards were developed by educators in that state, including some from colleges and universities such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the standards are "benchmarked nationally and internationally."

Massachusetts, however, no longer uses those standards. In 2010, the state adopted the Common Core State Standards. The North Dakota Department of Public Instruction also adopted Common Core that year. The following year, 46 states and the District of Columbia had those standards, but several states have since replaced them.

People who support the bill say it would return control to the state and ensure it will never use any national or multistate consortium course content standards or assessments.

"This failed experiment on our children has not worked," said Lori Hinz, a Bismarck resident and parent of three.

Prominent education groups fired back at the bill, saying it would "usurp" Baesler's power and take North Dakota schools back several years.

The Department of Public Instruction accepted applications in May from all teachers — pre-K through university level — who wanted to help rewrite math and English language arts standards. All those who applied were selected, Baesler told House Education Committee members Monday.

A group of 71 educators met throughout the summer to rewrite the new standards. Two drafts have been submitted, and the final standards will be submitted to Baesler in March to be implemented in the fall.

Those who criticized the bill Monday included representatives from the North Dakota Council of Educational Leaders, the state School Boards Association, North Dakota United, as well as several school district superintendents — including Bismarck Superintendent Tamara Uselman. They said the bill would undo work already done on the new standards.

"HB 1432 would completely cast aside the hard work done by teachers across the state as they reviewed, discussed, tweaked and rewrote the North Dakota standards for math and English language arts," said Nick Archuleta, president of ND United.

"We spent laborious amounts of time discussing these standards," said Kristeen Monson, a teacher at Grafton High School, who worked on the standards over the summer.

"We did not take this lightly," she said. "We’re North Dakota teachers. Shouldn’t North Dakota teachers be determining what we want our kids to do and learn?"

The bill would also revoke any ties to federal funding, a part of the bill that Koppelman said could be amended.

In September 2016, Baesler signed a letter withdrawing the state from the Smarter Balanced Consortium as of June 30, 2017.

Common Core opponents said the bill would safeguard the state from ever returning to those standards, which Baesler said she's uncertain about.

"If we were going to completely eliminate and eradicate everything (in Common Core) — because there’s a lot of things that are in Common Core standards that were in our 2001 standards. So, they came from our 2001 standards, they went into our 2010 standards, and now they’ve become part of Common Core. Do we eradicate those, as well?" Baesler said.

"We would have to go back to 1964-65 in order to get rid of nothing that has ever been in the 2010 Common Core standards," she said.

Baesler also disagreed with claims that the new standards hadn’t been modified from Common Core.

“There’s a significant difference in the first draft, and then even more changes in the second draft,” Baesler said after the meeting. “I guess the reason that it was alarming to me is because if you take a look — if you actually do sit down and look at the edited versions, both the first draft and the second draft, it’s easy for you to say that there were changes.”

Second drafts of the math and English language arts standards can be reviewed on the Department of Public Instruction's website.

(Reach Blair Emerson at 701-250-8251 or Blair.Emerson@bismarcktribune.com)

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