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Common Core Falters in Michigan

Michigan has taken the first steps in what could result in the end of Common Core in the state. The version of the budget passed by the House this week prohibits the Michigan Department of Education from allocating funding for the implementation of the standards. The Michigan House also has a separate bill in committee that, if eventually ratified, would formally withdraw the state from Common Core.

Michigan is one of 21 governing members of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, one of the two consortia developing assessments around Common Core. Governing members are states that have full voting power on policy matters within the consortium and that, as Smarter Balanced described them, "are fully committed to Smarter Balanced."

However, that commitment is floundering. The Michigan House omnibus budget for 2013–2014, passed Wednesday 59–51, incorporated an amendment sponsored by Rep. Tom McMillin that states:

Funds appropriated in [Article IV] part 1 shall not be used to fund the common core state standards [sic] initiative or smarter balanced [sic] assessments. Funds shall not be used to implement programs or student assessments created by the common core state standards [sic] initiative or smarter balanced [sic] assessments. [full text of HB 4328]

The text does not seem to prohibit individual districts from using state funds to implement the standards.

However, a separate bill also sponsored by McMillin, HB 4276, which at the time of this writing is sitting in the Michigan House Committee on Education, would not only prohibit implementation, but would direct the State Board of Education to "take the necessary action to rescind the State Board's adoption of those Common Core standards ... and to discontinue any assessments aligned to those Common Core standards."

Further:

The State Board shall ensure that the State Board model core academic curriculum content standards under section 1278 and the subject area content expectations that apply to the credit requirements of the Michigan merit standard under sections 1278a and 1278b are not based upon the Common Core standards described in subsection (1). [full text of HB 4276]

The Michigan State Board of Education in 2010 unanimously voted to adopt Common Core State Standards and unanimously reaffirmed that commitment as recently as last month, challenging the legislature head-on in its "[e]fforts ... to weaken the rigorous Michigan Merit Curriculum, and retreat from Michigan's implementation of the career- and college-ready Common Core State Standards...."

According to the members of the board:

The Common Core State Standards create consistent, clear expectations in reading, writing, speaking, listening, language and mathematics. They are robust and relevant to the real world, creating realistic and practical expectations that reflect the knowledge and skills needed to enter credit-bearing entry courses for two- and four-year college programs or the workforce.

As such, the State Board of Education re-affirms its belief in the rigorous standards defined in the Michigan Merit Curriculum and the Common Core State Standards. Michigan is headed in the right direction. Now is not the time to turn back the clock on Michigan's strong curriculum. [full text of the State Board's statement]

The next step in Michigan's decision whether or not to abandon Common Core will take place in the coming weeks. The state Senate also passed (101–24–1) its version of the budget that contains language similar to that found in the House version: "The appropriations in part 1 shall not be used for development of the common core state standards." [sic] The conference committee will likely take place around the end of May.

Should Michigan choose to withdraw from Smarter Balanced, it will join both Utah and Alabama in doing so. Presently the membership of Smarter Balanced totals 25 states plus the United States Virgin Islands. Alaska, while now a member of the consortium as of this week, is actually not a Common Core adopter. The second major Common Core consortium, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), has 21 states and the District of Columbia as members as of this writing. Alabama was a member of both Smarter Balanced and PARCC and withdrew from both.

About the Author

Executive Producer David Nagel heads up the editorial department for 1105 Media's education publications — which include two daily sites, a variety of newsletters and two monthly digital magazines covering technology in both K-12 and higher education.

A 21-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art and business publications.

He can be reached at dnagel@1105media.com. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/profile/view?id=10390192 or follow him on Twitter at @THEJournalDave (K-12) or @CampusTechDave (higher education). A selection of David Nagel's articles can be found on this site.


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