WEST CHESTER (September 11) – State Senator Andy Dinniman outlined the conflicting and contradictory statements that Governor Tom Corbett and the Pennsylvania Department of Education have recently made about National Common Core Standards.

Answers Marked on Test“Upon reading Monday’s press release, in which the governor calls for a review of Common Core Standards and touts his administration’s opposition to its implementation, I am compelled to point out his long history of support for Common Core in Pennsylvania,” Dinniman said. “Now, as the November election nears, the governor is not only trying to backpedal – he is trying to rewrite history. In fact, the governor not only supported the implementation of Common Core Standards, he effectively doubled down and directed his department to go beyond what the federal government required.”

On Monday the governor said he and the Department of Education are in the “final phase in his nearly three year effort to permanently roll back the national Common Core plan implemented by his predecessor.”

  • The Corbett administration has been doing exactly the opposite. At every opportunity, Department of Education officials worked to move forward with the implementation of Common Core through statements, testimony and action.
  • On September 20, 2013, then-Acting Deputy Secretary Carolyn Dumaresq urged the State Board of Education to vote in favor of implementing the entire Final-Form Chapter 4 Regulations (the Pennsylvania Core Standards). Only Senator Dinniman and three other Democrats, including state Rep. James Roebuck, Jr., voted against it.
  • On November 21, 2013, the Independent Regulatory Review Commission voted, 3-2, along party lines to promulgate the Final-Form Chapter 4 Regulations (the Pennsylvania Core Standards). Again, Dumaresq urged the commission to approve the regulations, while Senator Dinniman opposed them.

On Monday the governor said, “Common Core has become nothing more than a top-down takeover of the education system.”

  • In fact, in May 2013 the Department of Education released a fact sheet calling the idea that Common Core is a federal government initiative that encroaches on states’ rights a “myth.” Which is it?

On Monday the governor said that “under (his) leadership, the State Board has been working toward the repeal of the national Common Core State Standards that were adopted in July 2010 under Gov. Rendell, and replace them with standards that are specific to Pennsylvania, its students and schools.”

  • There is no significant difference between the two except for the pre-K Pennsylvania standards. The lack of major differences between the two is spelled out on the Department of Education’s own website. The state’s labeling of the national standards as Pennsylvania standards is essentially a change in name only.

On Monday the governor said he “will be sending Acting Secretary of Education  Dumaresq to this week’s meeting of the Pennsylvania State Board of Education to request that the board hold immediate statewide hearings to continue to review improvements to Pennsylvania’s academic content in the English language arts and mathematics standards.

  • Numerous hearings, studies and endless debates have been held over the past three years. During that time, the governor has not said one word in opposition. Last spring and summer, legislative hearings were held in both the House and Senate, in which Senators Dinniman and Folmer participated. Senator Dinniman raised serious concerns regarding the use of the Keystone Exams as a graduation requirement and the complete lack of funding for them. The administration’s decision then was to go ahead with it – to implement those standards and to measure them via the Keystone Exams.

On Monday the governor said, “In September 2013, the State Board began the formal process of repealing and replacing the national Common Core Standards with the Pennsylvania-specific standards. The Board also eliminated the national common core tests, and Corbett reduced the number of Keystone Exams from 10 tests to three in Algebra, Biology and Literature.”

  • Again, the only real difference between National Common Core Standards and the Pennsylvania Core Standards are in name only
  • Furthermore, Corbett did not reduce the number of tests from 10 to three. Rather, his administration only opted not to expand the tests beyond the three currently required by the federal government after Senator Dinniman and his colleagues on the Senate Education Committee put pressure on them to do so. In fact, Senator Dinniman introduced legislation to do just that: Senate Bill 1244.

Dinniman also pointed out that while the governor on Monday cited “Pennsylvania’s long tradition of local control of public schools” he made no mention of backing away from his support for using the Keystone Exams as a requirement for high school graduation. Dinniman remains a strong and consistent critic of state-mandated standardized tests deciding whether a student gets a diploma.

“The Keystone Exams are tied to the standards,” Dinniman said. “So, if the governor questions the standards themselves, then in my view he should put a moratorium on any testing including the graduation tests until such time as his proposed review is completed.”