Alabama's common core fight makes its way to Congress
Alabama's fight over the use of common core curriculum standards in K-12 public education has reached the U.S. Congress.
Rep. Martha Roby, R-Alabama, introduced legislation today that would prohibit the federal government from offering grants or policy waivers contingent on a state's use of certain curricula or assessment policies.
"The executive branch has exceeded its appropriate reach where state education policy is concerned, and it's time to rein it in," Roby said in a press release.
The Defending State Authority Over Education Act, Roby said, will "prevent undue influence by the federal government."
"Local and state leaders -- those who have direct interaction with parents and teachers in their communities -- are best positioned to determine policies that affect Alabama's students," she said. "Washington bureaucrats are not."
A spokesman for Roby's office said she supports high standards in education and thinks Alabama should continue in that endeavor, but she does not support federal pressure in the making of those decisions.
The proposed legislation is a reaction to the Common Core State Curriculum Standards that state Republicans attempted to overturn in Alabama during the 2013 legislative session.
Developed by the National Governor's Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, the standards came in response to a report from the American Diploma Project that said 28 percent of high school graduates nationwide were not prepared for college math or English.
Adopted by 45 states, the District of Columbia and four U.S. territories, the standards are intended to ensure all U.S. graduates are prepared for college through a more rigorous set of standards that are universal across state lines.
Republicans and conservative activists have criticized the standards as a federal intrusion into state business since the Obama administration announced in 2009 that states seeking certain Race to the Top Grants from the U.S. Department of Education would be scored in part on whether they adopted the common core.
Alabama, which is not a Race to the Top recipient, adopted the standards for mathematics and English with math taking effect in the 2012-13 school year and English standards set to take effect in August.
(To view Alabama's remediation rates for English and math, click here.)
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State Republicans attempted to overturn the state board's decision during the 2013 legislative session but called off plans after two failed attempts and calls from State Superintendent Tommy Bice and other educators to save the standards.
In response to Roby's announcement, State Rep. Jay Love, R-Montgomery, who chairs the House Ways and Means Education Committee, and House Speaker Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, issued statements of support.
"Alabama's state motto is 'We Dare Defend Our Rights,' and that includes defending our right to education our children without interference or high-handed decrees from so-called experts on the federal level," Love said.
Released in June 2010, the state school board adopted them the same year, over the objection of then incoming Gov. Robert Bentley.
The standards differ from curriculum -- the textbooks, material and educational strategies used -- in that they are a list of topics and concepts students should grasp by each grade, setting a minimum achievement standard.
Each topic is meant to build on the list toward students' eventual graduation and preparation for college or career.
Curriculum decision are still made by individual teachers and local school boards, Bice and state school board members say.
The Republican National Committee weighed in in April, calling the standards "an inappropriate overreach to standardize and control the education of our children so they will conform to a preconceived 'normal.'"
A 26-state consortium in conjunction with various public policy groups has also developed Next Generation Science Standards that Alabama has not adopted, but could consider when it updates its science standards in the coming years.