As the November gubernatorial election in Connecticut draws near, the fate of the Common Core State Standards in Connecticut hangs in the balance.
The CCSS, developed by the Council of Chief State School Officers and National Governors Association in 2009, sets grade level guidelines for instruction in the language arts and mathematics and aims to prepare students across the nation for college and careers. Incumbent governor and Democratic Party nominee Dannel Malloy supports the initiative while Republican nominee Tom Foley opposes it.
Malloy wants to see the CCSS implemented in full but has reservations about how quickly implementation should be carried out. In a Sept. 5 letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Malloy explained that students across Connecticut will not take the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium test — which was designed to test Common Core material — because he is concerned that 11th graders would be overwhelmed by the addition of a new standardized test.
Foley, on the other hand, has questioned whether it makes sense to implement the Common Core standards throughout Connecticut.
If Common Core is halted throughout the state, a number of initiatives that Malloy has worked on could be in jeopardy. Last month Malloy authorized spending $4 million on professional teacher training days and the development of language arts and mathematics instruction, as well as $10 million on technology upgrades in schools.
These policies are part of the Connecticut Core Initiative, a response to recommendations made by the Common Core Implementation Task Force in June.
The task force was itself a response to moves by the American Federation of Teachers Connecticut, a union of 29,000 workers in education, health care and public service. The federation has since endorsed Malloy in the gubernatorial race.
Foley, who won the Republican primary in August, has criticized the Common Core but supports standards that measure student and teacher performance. Still, he has spoken out against Malloy for implementing the Common Core system in successful schools as well as failing schools.
Some people, including AFTCT President Melodie Peters, have doubts about Foley’s education policy.
“In Tom Foley’s latest ad, he claims to have a plan for our state’s schools, and he’s talked vaguely about allowing some districts to drop out of the standards,” Peters said in a release. “The few details he’s revealed show his plan is little more than a scheme to pay for vouchers by starving schools whose students need and deserve support.”
One problem is that districts are having trouble implementing the program: the developers of the program did not outline a specific plan for schools looking to participate, according to a statement by CCSS Program Director of the CCSSO Carrie Heath Phillips.
“The question of implementation is a serious one, and I think that’s where issues with the Common Core have cropped up,” said Elizabeth Carroll, director of the Education Studies program at Yale.
Implementation in Connecticut and nationwide faces challenges such as limited time frames and few short-term benefits.
Policymakers generally underestimate the time required to phase in the CCSS because they want to generate results as quickly as possible, Carroll said.
Parents and teachers are two groups that have pushed back against Common Core because they are worried about their children being evaluated against new and rigorous standards. Carroll said these concerns are not a result of the standards themselves but of their rushed implementation.
A May survey by the Connecticut Education Association and the AFTCT found that 82 percent of surveyed teachers did not believe they had adequate time or resources to implement the CCSS.
Despite the hurdles of implementation, the Common Core program has garnered positive attention from many different groups.
“The Common Core State Standards offer kids a level playing field,” said Jennifer Alexander, CEO of the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, said in a statement. “They also offer parents peace of mind that we’ll know how well our kids are gaining the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in today’s world.”
Bridgeport Public Education Fund Executive Director Margaret Hiller also praised the CCSS for promoting high-quality teaching and student acquisition of valuable life skills.
Connecticut is one of 46 states to have adopted the Common Core system.