Yesterday Superintendent Kirsten Baesler announced that the Department of Public Instruction would begin the process of developing new North Dakota education standards which will move the state away Common Core.
“We will be producing a superior set of North Dakota standards for our public schools, written by North Dakota teachers, that establish clear and high expectations for North Dakota students,” Baesler said in a released statement.
Opponents of Common Core were happy, but accused Baesler of making a politically-driven decision. She is on the ballot this year, after all, after a rocky first term in office. And at the NDGOP convention a month ago she was nearly upset by a relatively unknown candidate who running an anti-Common Core campaign (and who has continued on to the June primary ballot).
Baesler called me this morning to give some more context this this re-working of state education standards. She says this was in the works well before the election year, but said it was in response to dissatisfaction with Common Core.
“It’s not a campaign move,” she told me, “but you have to be responsive to your constituents.”
She said that she told lawmakers during committee testimony at the 2015 session last year that the state reviews its standards every five to seven years, and that the next likely review would begin in 2016.
“That was my testimony back then,” she said. “This isn’t something that was out of the blue or a flip.”
She did say that the vote at the NDGOP convention confirmed that a shift in state standards was necessary as a way to build more consensus around the state’s education standards.
“Let’s not be divisive any more,” she said.
I’m not sure that Baesler’s critics will be convinced that this is anything but opportunistic politics, but it does appear as though this review wasn’t explicitly a campaign-driven decision.
And for what it’s worth, the process Baesler has initiated is no guarantee that the state will be completely rid of Common Core. The standards produced through this process could still align with Common Core to one degree or another. As for testing, the state will be opening up for bids to provide those services again, and the Smarter Balanced folks (who didn’t do such a great job rolling out Common Core-aligned testing in the state last spring) would be on the same footing to bid for that contract as any other company.
The anti-Common Core folks have definitely moved the needle. Policy leaders like Baesler are reacting. But this fight isn’t anywhere near over, I think.