AUGUSTA, Maine — Education organizations in Maine opposed a bill to rein back the state’s involvement in the Common Core State Standards over objections the standards are confusing and rob communities of local control over their schools.
The bill, LD 1492, sponsored by Rep. William Tuell, R-East Machias, would allow local districts to opt out of the Common Core State Standards at the end of the 2016-2017 school year.
In the time between now and then, the bill would allow school districts to revert to the Maine Learning Results that were in effect before April 12, 2010.
The bill also requires the Department of Education, with input from a stakeholders committee, to develop a new system of content standards by the 2017-2018 school year.
“Common Core in Maine has gotten away from the principles which have guided generations of schoolkids since our country’s founding back in 1776,” Tuell said. “While this bill does not hold all of the answers, I have no problem with you amending it. … Whatever it takes to get to a successful resolution.”
“Common Core is a one-size-fits-all concept that is not appropriate for Maine and our children,” Rep. Richard Pickett, R-Dixfield, a co-sponsor of the bill, said. “The approach of Common Core takes away much of our local control. … I believe our students in Maine may have different learning styles from those in other states and the educational curriculum should be left to those who teach these students firsthand.”
Not everyone agreed.
During Monday’s Education Committee hearing on LD 1492, several opponents said the use of Common Core in Maine is too new for its effectiveness to be properly evaluated and that switching to new standards would create problems and confusion. Peter Geiger, vice chairman of the State Board of Education, said the standards were adopted carefully and with widespread input.
“Tossing out standards and rewriting them is not for the faint of heart,” Geiger said. “It is timely and expensive. The timetable written into LD 1492 is clearly not doable and will surely confuse educators.”
Ben Gilman of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce said the bill could unravel a range of initiatives and be damaging to Maine schools.
“We encourage this committee to stay the course on education reforms enacted in the last five years and reject this proposal and others that might come before you this year attempting to repeal or weaken proficiency-based education, meeting core standards and aligned assessments,” Gilman said. “Academic standards provide a set of clear expectations of what students should know and be able to understand.”
The Common Core State Standards were developed in 2009 by education officials and governors in 49 states. The standards outline what students across the United States should know and be able to do at each grade level.
The Common Core standards were integrated into Maine’s existing Learning Results by unanimous votes of the Legislature in 2011 and were signed into law by Gov. Paul LePage.
A total of 42 states and the District of Columbia were using the Common Core in English/language arts and mathematics at its peak, but in recent years controversy around it has grown. Three states — Oklahoma, Indiana and South Carolina — have stopped using the Common Core.
Interim Education Commissioner Bill Beardsley said the department would testify neither for nor against the proposal and said it would like to partner with the Legislature to review the standards, along with other major initiatives that are underway. He said the overall goal is to “stabilize” the education environment for students and educators.
“We support the aspects of LD 1492 that propose these substantive reviews, yet we remain attentive to recent concerns expressed in the field related to extensive testing, confusion over the introduction of performance-based learning and other implementation changes,” Beardsley said. “It’s our preference to stabilize the teaching and learning environment in Maine schools.”
Stephanie Phillips of the Old Town school committee said the standards are too hard for some students and that the timeline the standards lay out is difficult to keep up with.
“I’ve got a little girl that’s in tears almost every night, and it does not have to be that way,” Phillips said. “It is not rocket science to teach multiplication to a 10-year-old.”
The bill will be the subject of work sessions in the coming months before the committee makes a recommendation to the full Legislature.