Officials Discuss Common Core Standards

By Lauren Wanko

So far 43 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Common Core.

“The Common Core is important because for the first time we’re gonna ask students to meet international standards,” said former Gov. Tom Kean.

Kean was the keynote speaker at the New Jersey School Choice Alliance’s statewide conference on the Common Core. He says the standards are the next step in improving schools.

“We’re now going to our competitors in the industrialized world. We’re ranking 25th and out 30 in science and math. We can’t do that and not be the USA, not be the leader in the world,” Kean said.

“The Common Core, I think the concepts are good, the problem is the devil’s in the details. This doesn’t belong in the legislature, it belongs with education experts in Department of Education and the unions that are going to implement the programs and everyone that’s involved,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney.

“I’m skeptical as to whether it can work. What I do know is New Jersey standards need to be higher,” said Dick Zimmer.

The New Jersey State Board of Education adopted the Common Core Standards in 2010. It applies to public school students in grades K-12.

“In the spring of 2015, New Jersey is going to implement new assessments and these assessments are particularly developed to test student progress against the Common Core Standards,” Acting Department of Education Commissioner David Hespe said.

The computer-based test is called Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers or PARCC.

This spring, for the first time, all public school students in grades 3 through 8, will be given the PARCC assessment for English and math. Grades 9, 10 and 11 will be tested in geometry, Algebra 1 and 2 and English.

PARCC will not be used as a graduation requirement until 2019 at the earliest, says a New Jersey Department of Education spokesperson.

“I’ve seen sample testing for the PARCC test and I’ve seen they’re very advanced. I’ve seen for a fourth-grader that I would tell, kids in high school would probably have difficulty answering those questions,” said Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto.

“We’re going to raise expectations because we have to. Right now our current standards aren’t serving our students well,” Hespe said.

“Yes those tests are going to be hard, and kids getting 80s or 90s now may get 30s or 40s the first time they take the test and what will be an understanding of what the gaps are,” Kean said.

“There’s a lot of pressure and a lot of angst going into these tests,” said John Moody. “New Jersey did go through a couple years of field testing on this so we have a decent sense of how kids are going to react but not, never have we had every school, every kid taking test, so no doubt it’s going to be rocky.”

Students will begin taking the first portion of the two-part test in March.