First Shots Fired In What Promises To Be Nasty Legislative Fight Over Common Core


North Dakota’s legislative session doesn’t start until January, but already the Common Core issue is getting ugly.

Last week while lawmakers were in Bismarck for caucus meetings Rep. Jim Kasper, a Fargo Republican, organized a meeting (see email here) and circulated a bill draft for legislation to withdraw North Dakota from Common Core.

You can read the full legislation below, but what it does in a nutshell is a sort of “repeal and replace” of Common Core. It requires the withdrawal of North Dakota from the Smarter Balance Consortium and creates a Commission on North Dakota Education Standards and Assessments. Said commission would have eleven members consisting of the governor; three representatives from higher education in the areas of math, science and language arts; three representatives from K-12 education in the areas of math, science and language arts; two representatives from education administration; and two members from the legislature.

According to the legislation, the commission “shall develop and oversee the implementation of standards for each grade from kindergarten through twelve, in the areas of English language arts, mathematics, and science. The standards must be internationally benchmarked to ensure that North Dakota students are prepared to achieve and succeed in a knowledge-based globally competitive society and economy.”

So, basically, the bill requires the state to develop its own curriculum, though it doesn’t appear as though anything would prevent the commission from just adopting Common Core. Anyway, read the full bill below, as there are some other issues addressed to such as grading, etc.

I spoke with Rep. Kasper this afternoon about the legislation. “I had Legislative Council draft a bill to withdraw from Common Core,” he told me. “The goal of the bill is to withdraw from Common Core and have North Dakota establish its own standards.”

He said after a copy of his draft bill – and he stressed that it is a draft which will no doubt undergo significant changes – got to the Fargo School Board some were upset about it. Kasper said he has spoken to Fargo Public Schools Superintendent Jeff Schatz about the bill and plans to sit down and address his concerns.

But supporters of Common Core are already going public with their opposition.

Not surprisingly, the North Dakota Chamber of Commerce dislikes Kasper’s proposal. The Chamber of Commerce has, nationally, been a fierce defender of Common Core. In a press conference today responding to Kasper’s bill the Chamber denounced any efforts to pull out of Common Core.

“The path we are currently on supports a rigorous, standards based education for all students and, combined with excellent professional development opportunities for staff members, it has served as an effective mechanism for improving our schools,” concludes Aimee Copas, executive director for North Dakota Council of Educational Leaders, who is quoted in the Chamber’s press release. “Representative Kasper has proposed an unnecessary overhaul of a highly functional system that, by our estimation, could cost the state well over $100 million to reverse. We need to let our school boards continue to oversee the educational process in our districts; we need to let school administrators lead; and, we need to let our teachers teach.”

If you ask me, I’m not sure what all the fuss is about Common Core. In fact, I’d be surprised if many of those braying the loudest about it on both sides of the issue could differentiate Common Core standards from pre-Common Core standards.

Common Core seems to be the latest national education fad that will, five or ten years hence, be replaced by another fad. Just another top-down, one-size-fits-all program to address a problem that has everything to do with too much top-down, one-size-fits-all policy.

Still, you can expect this fight to get ugly. Both sides of the issue are passionate and entrenched. This is already heating up, and we’re still weeks away from the open days of the session.

North Dakota Common Core Withdrawal