Justin LaBar: Common Core Is Not Gone in North Dakota


TOM STROMME.Tribune Leah Peterson, center, holds a pile of more than 1400 signed petitions protesting implementation of Common Core that were presented to the House education committee on 2-2 morning. Peterson, of Fargo, is sitting in the packed Brynhild Haugland Room of the state capitol during a hearing on HB 1461, a bill that would do away with North Dakota involvement with Common Core standards.

As elected representatives from across the state of North Dakota assemble for the 65th Legislative Assembly, I have a message for many of them. When it comes to the Common Core State Standards, it appears you have been duped. “By whom?,” you say. By our very own Superintendent of Public Instruction, Kirsten Baesler.

It seems many in the state’s House and Senate think Common Core is gone, done for, and a thing of the past. I regret to inform them that it appears this is not true.

On May 3, 2016 the Bismarck Tribune reported in an article titled, “North Dakota to Write Standards Replacing Common Core” that Baesler said, “We will create a set of standards by North Dakotans for North Dakotans.” Shortly thereafter, a committee was formed to begin the process of writing the “new standards”.

On September 12, 2016 Superintendent Baesler submitted a letter to the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (the testing arm of Common Core) notifying them that North Dakota was withdrawing from the consortium effective June 30, 2017.

On September 29, 2016 the Say Anything Blog published an article by Superintendent Baesler titled, “How to Improve Education in North Dakota,” in which she touted the “new standards” and said they “will replace the standards adopted in 2011 based on the Common Core.” She then announced that the committee work had been completed on the “first draft of standards” and that it would be available to the public.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]The most troubling thing in all of this is Superintendent Baesler’s dishonesty.[/mks_pullquote]

So far, so good… right? Not so much. As a fourth grade teacher, I took the time to do a side by side comparison of the 2011 standards and the first draft 2016 standards. The result? Aside from switching some phrases to a neighboring column, an occasional change in verbiage, or an occasional addition that changes nothing, they are Common Core through and through. Even the Overview for each grade’s standards are word for word Common Core.

The previously mentioned September 12th letter withdrawing North Dakota from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) may not even mean much in the end. According to an article published on October 3, 2016, the Forum’s Mike Nowatzki reported that though Baesler had withdrawn North Dakota, the SBAC would still be allowed to be part of the bidding process as the firm to provide testing for our “new standards”.

I wish that I could say that all of this surprises me, but it does not. In a May 7, 2016 article I wrote for the Say Anything Blog titled, “This Teacher Does Not Want Common Core or Kirsten Baesler,” I was critical of Baesler in relation to this issue. As part of that article, I wrote the following:

“It is true that a committee will be formed here in North Dakota to review the standards, but changes to the standards themselves will likely be very minimal. In fact, a copyright is held on them with the allowance that states can make some minor modifications (preferably not more than 15%). Most of those changes would be in the form of additions, not subtractions. Those additions would primarily be for “clarification” purposes (as mentioned in the foreword to the standards).”

So, while Superintendent Baesler was touring the state and leading people to believe Common Core was on it’s way out, some of us realized it would turn out to be nothing but smoke and mirrors. And, thus far, it appears that is exactly the case.

A second draft of the standards were due for completion in December. A third – and potentially final – draft of the standards are due for completion in March. Unless everything is scrapped and a truly new set of standards is put in place, North Dakota is set to move forward with Common Core.

The most troubling thing in all of this is Superintendent Baesler’s dishonesty. These are not “a set of standards by North Dakotans for North Dakotans.” Not at all. She has intentionally chosen to try and mislead North Dakota’s citizens, parents, and legislators. It is deceitful, and for that reason she should have no credibility with the 65th Legislative Assembly when it comes to matters involving education.