Strong supporters of Common Core told state lawmakers the standards are more rigorous and that if they are delayed, students will suffer.
Allan Taylor, chairman of the State Board of Education, which approved the standards in 2010, told legislators, “With all respect, it makes no sense to return to the mediocrity of our prior standards by delaying implementation of the Common Core… Please don’t make Connecticut go backwards.”
Lisa Simo-Kinz, a mother of three from Terryville, said, “I’m here to testify against the Common Core,” as she waited for the noon hearing to start at the Legislative Office Building. “We want it taken out of the state, we don’t want it here, it dumbs down the students.” Six hours later Simo-Kinz was still waiting to testify in a hearing that appeared to be headed deep into the night.
The measure was proposed by legislators who have heard complaints from constituents that the rollout of the Common Core has been uneven, and concerns that children may be unprepared for a new standardized test set to start next week. The test was created by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and is based on the new academic standards.
House Republican leader Larry Cafero, who has called for a delay in the new standards, said that four years ago when legislators first heard about the standards and were told that they came with higher expectations for students, “we collectively believed in that and supported that.”
But this year, Cafero said, “we are seeing the rubber meet the road” and he has heard “story after story” from parents and teachers with apprehensions.
“Prior to this, it wasn’t our job to get involved,” said Cafero, “but when your constituents — parents, teachers and students — have the level of anxiety that many of us are hearing about, it is our job to get involved.”
Cafero said that if young children are not adequately prepared for the Smarter Balanced test and they don’t feel they did well, it could leave them feeling demoralized even though this year’s test is a field test and students won’t get individual scores. State officials emphasized their efforts to lower anxiety about the new test by not tying this year’s scores to teachers’ evaluations, school performance ratings or any ratings of students.
“You talk about lessening anxiety? It’s through the roof right now, and I think we have a responsibility to do something about it,” Cafero said.
“Until we get out the kinks, we should not force this down anyone’s throat.” Cafero said of the new test.
Sandra Stotsky, a professor emeritus from the University of Arkansas who said she served on the validation committee for the Common Core State Standards but refused to sign off on the standards, told legislators that the standards are deficient and she supports a delay in implementation and a review by an independent research organization.
“Even if this committee kills this bill, the discussion is going to continue,” Stotsky told legislators, “because parents are fighting. They are tiger moms, they are fighting for their children’s education…”
The bill would delay implementing the standards and prevent the state Department of Education from spending any money appropriated to it from the general fund for that purpose. The agency has $8.3 million to spend on implementation this year and $6.3 million for next year and has been investing it in training Common Core coaches and providing other assistance to school districts.
The bill also calls for the department to investigate the effects of implementing such standards on school districts in the state.
Joseph Cirasuolo, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, said his membership believes passing the bill delaying Common Core would “cause confusion instead of clarification and would deprive districts of the very support they need right now to do the work.”
He said the reality is that school districts are well along in implementing the new academic standards. All of the districts have revised curriculum, he said, and 60 percent have engaged in teacher preparation or training.
“Moratorium says to me: You stop. All of that just stops. Our members are saying, ‘We can’t do that. What do we if stop? Do we go back and get the stuff we used to use four years ago?'” Cirasuolo said.
“You’re not going to improve a process if you stop it,” Cirasuolo said.
Melodie Peters, president of the Connecticut chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, said the union agrees with the superintendents that Common Core should go forward. “By stopping something, you’re not giving it an opportunity to improve,” she said.
Patti Fusco, a West Haven teacher whom the governor appointed to a panel that will make recommendations on how to improve the rollout of the new standards, said that she has confidence that “we are going to roll up our sleeves and fix the problem… Any new thing needs to be tweaked.”
Watch testimony here.