ND Superintendent Announces Beginning Of Move Away From Common Core Standards

North Dakota Superintendent of Public Instruction Kirsten Baesler announces the gathering of a task force to look into future options the state has for the assessment of students during a press conference on 5-8-2015 at the state Capitol in Bismarck. Mike McCleary / Bismarck Tribune (must credit Bismarck Tribune)

About a month ago I wrote that North Dakota’s Republicans, many of whom were stalwart supporters of Common Core, were beginning to turn their backs on the education standards. Among them the Stenehjem/Poolman gubernatorial ticket and state Superintendent Kirsten Baesler who has had a rocky first year in office, in no small part because of push back from Common Core opponents.

Today Baesler is announcing that she will begin moving the state away from the Common Core standards by starting an initiative to create new standards to replace them.

“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,” she said in a press release sent out this morning (see below).

“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,” she said in a press release sent out this morning (see below).

“Our present standards are formally called the ‘North Dakota Mathematics/English Content Standards Based on the Common Core’,” Baesler spokesman Dale Wetzel told me in response to a question about the release. “The new standards will not be ‘Based on the Common Core.'”

The state will also be moving away from Smarter Balanced testing which had a disastrous roll out last spring. “Once the new North Dakota math and English standards are completed, a state test that is aligned to the new North Dakota standards in math and English will be selected,” the press release states. “The test is now provided by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, a group of 15 states that includes North Dakota as a governing member.”

This is a remarkable shift from just a little over a year ago when Baesler and her supporters in the Legislature won a contentious battle over Common Core, defeating a bill introduced by Rep. Jim Kasper (R-Fargo) which would have (among other things) done exactly what Baesler is now proposing.

Specifically, replacing the Common Core standards with standards developed by the State of North Dakota.

I’m assuming the new standards developed by in-state leaders could still be based to one degree or another on Common Core if that’s what those leaders decide. This was a possibility Kasper acknowledged was possible even with his bill. As he wrote in a guest post here on SAB, the priority for him was putting North Dakota in charge of education standards instead of hitching the state to standards created elsewhere.

UPDATE: Some clarification from Wetzel:

Our teachers will be developing these new math and English standards and they have free rein to do so. They will decide what starting point they will use and what these new standards will be called.

It is fair to say, though, that the new standards that are developed will replace our existing standards, which are called the “North Dakota Mathematics (and English) Content Standards based on the Common Core.”

On testing – once the new standards are developed, we will need a test that aligns to those standards. There are a number of test providers, including the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. The Department of Public Instruction will be advertising for a company to provide a test that aligns with our new standards. This will be an open competition among test providers. It isn’t accurate to say we are “moving away” from Smarter Balanced, because Smarter Balanced will have the ability to compete for our test business once our new standards are developed. They will be on the same footing as the other testing companies that we expect to compete for our business.

Here’s the full press release from Baesler:

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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