Chris Christie Plans to Issue Executive Order on Common Core Standards This Week
Star-Ledger Staff and Wire Reports | The Star-Ledger
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — While attending a meeting of the National Governors Association today, Gov. Chris Christie said he plans to issue an executive order this week regarding common education standards that have sparked criticism from parents and educators.
Christie declined to elaborate on the substance of the order.
A bill that would delay linking teacher evaluations to tests used to measure how well students have mastered the Common Core standards passed the Assembly last month. The state Senate has not yet voted on the legislation.
The Common Core standards were not on the formal agenda during the three-day meeting here that ended today, relegated to hallway discussions and closed-door meetings among governors and their staffs. The standards and even the words "Common Core" have "become, in a sense, radioactive," said Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, a Republican whose state voluntarily adopted the standards in 2010.
Christie told the Associated Press that public skepticism about the standards can be traced to a general distrust of the federal government.
He said voters, "given the lack of confidence they have in government in Washington and that type of centralization, want their governors" to figure out solutions that work for their states.
The legislation passed by the Assembly last month would create a 15-member task force to investigate Common Core, a set of English and math standards that spell out what students should know and when, and the tests created to gauge students’ mastery of the standards.
The tests would still be rolled out as planned if the legislation passed but the results would not count toward teacher evaluations, the centerpiece of the teacher tenure reform law signed by Christie in 2012.
There was little controversy when the bipartisan governors association in 2009 helped develop the common education standards aimed at improving schools and students' competitiveness across the nation. The standards were quickly adopted by 44 states.
But conservative activists who hold some influence in Republican politics aggressively condemned Common Core, and lawmakers in 27 states this year have proposed either delaying or revoking Common Core. The issue has forced many ambitious Republicans who previously had few concerns to distance themselves from the standards and the issue has begun to shape the early stages of the 2016 presidential race.
Wisconsin's Republican, Gov. Scott Walker, a potential 2016 candidate among the governors gathered in Nashville, said he has proposed a measure to adopt Wisconsin-specific education standards that are tougher than what the state adopted under Common Core in 2010.
"My problem with Common Core is I don't want people outside Wisconsin telling us what our standards should be," Walker said.
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence was the first to sign legislation revoking Common Core in April, and fellow potential Republican presidential hopeful Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana signed a series of executive orders blocking the use of tests tied to the standards, a move that outraged his state's own education superintendent.
Republicans governors in Oklahoma and South Carolina, an early presidential primary state, have signed measures aimed at repealing the standards.
Other Republicans, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, have defended the standards as integral to improving student performance and maintaining American competitiveness around the globe.
Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin of Vermont called the conservative critics "crazy."
"The fact that the tea party sees that as a conspiracy is a symptom of their larger problems," said Shumlin, who leads the Democratic Governors Association.
Common Core's standards for elementary math have confounded some parents by departing from some traditional methods to emphasize that kids understand how numbers relate to each other. Comedian Louis C.K. captured some of that that frustration when he took to Twitter earlier this year to vent about his kids' convoluted homework under Common Core, writing that his daughters went from loving math to crying about it.
Some governors attending the weekend conference said they were surprised to find the resistance to the standards.
"It's important for us governors to keep remembering the history of this, and the fact that this was not and continues to not be about a federal takeover," said Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, a Democrat.
Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval of Nevada stressed that the majority of the states are still in the process of implementing the new standards and it's the responsibility of governors and education officials to remind people that the curriculums will be designed locally.
"Nothing comes without a bit of controversy, but at the end of the day people realize it's in the best interest of the children of the state," he said.