When Rep. Gary Glenn (R, Dist. 98) introduced House Bill 4192 it was bound to cause some controversy. The bill would eliminate all state activities related to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). CCSS are initiatives, which define what K-12 students should know in certain disciplines at the end of each grade level. 43 states, including Michigan, adopted these standards in an effort to earn federal funding. Many parents have been vocal opponents of the CCSS and have called for its repeal. Parents often complain that they are unable to help their children with homework, or that is time consuming and lacks real world application. On the other side, Common Core supporters argue that we have not given the system enough time to judge its level of effectiveness and that if we pull the plug now, all the data collection will stop and we will have wasted years for nothing. When HB 4192 was referred to the Committee on Michigan Competitiveness, it was heralded as either a chance to save our children’s education or a political stunt at the expense of educators. But like many issues, it is not that simple. The most controversial aspect of HB 4192 is not whether the CCSS should be repealed, but what should replace it. Regardless of opinion, eliminating programs will not solve problems unless there is a better plan put in place.
The plan proposed by HB 4192 would require the Michigan Department of Education to adopt new academic standards that would be identical to the ones in place in the State of Massachusetts during the 2008/2009 school year, the year before they switched to the CCSS. The rationale behind this comes from a 2007 study (Massachusetts), which shows Massachusetts ranked highest in the country in math and science under those standards. Massachusetts often outperformed the rest of the nation in academics. While modeling our education system after one of the best in the nation could be a good strategy, copying and pasting nearly decade old standards is not. Massachusetts themselves moved away from these standards in favor of CCSS because they thought it would be better for their students. They are still ranked one of the highest in the nation in terms of quality under the CCSS (Morales).
Massachusetts has not reverted back to their old standards because they are still performing well. There is no reason to fix something that is not broken. Although unlikely, it is possible that CCSS are causing students to perform worse than they were in 2008 and the high rankings are preventing change. But even if that is the case we must ask how Massachusetts managed to stay at the top of the rankings even when all of the other states were using the same CCSS. The answer is that academic standards are not the sole predictor of the quality of education provided to students. It is not only about what students are expected to know but also how they gain that knowledge. Rep. Erika Geiss (D, Dist. 12) pointed out in committee discussion that Massachusetts spends 1 billion dollars more per year on 3 million less students than we do in the state of Michigan. That is a significant gap and a major contributor to Massachusetts’ success. That extra money could provide for better facilities, materials, and teachers.. The 21st Century Education Commission established by the Governor has recommended that Michigan keep its current education standards. While the Governor himself has not taken a stance on the bill, his Director of Strategy, John Walsh, has said, “We keep changing things and it’s difficult to then determine whether or not children are consistently moving forward or to find the things that are working.” (Roth).
Changing the academic standards will not fix all the problems with Michigan’s education system. If national one-size-fits-all standards are not the answer, neither are old repealed standards from other states. The Michigan Parent Teacher Association (MPTA) would agree with this statement. In a report detailing their opposition to HB 4192, they say, “Massachusetts’ standards were recognized as deficient, specifically in regards to mathematics, during that time.” The people who best know what curriculum should be set for their students are the local school boards, who can recognize the needs and skills of the community. That is the positive aspect of this bill. It states no school district or public academy would be required to utilize all or any part of the statewide standards in their curriculum and can face no punishment, financial or otherwise, for not doing so. Also, Michigan would be prohibited from adopting any national standards in the future. This would ensure academic standards would remain under state control. The only incentive schools would have to change their curriculum would be to keep them aligned with the content of state assessments, which would be based on the statewide standards.
So the question is, what real change would be affected by this bill? The state would no longer fund or support CCSS, but the lack of incentive for change and repercussions for not adhering to the state standards leaves HB 4192 without a carrot or a stick. While repealing CCSS has a lot of public support and might be a good idea, the solutions offered by HB 4192 leave something to be desired amid too much uncertainty. And although Massachusetts’s standards might be a good starting point, the best standards for Michigan would be developed by those familiar with our system, for our system. When it comes to education and the future of our children, we should be doing twice the work to ensure they get the best, not taking shortcuts and copying other states.
Massachusetts. "TIMSS Results Place Massachusetts Among World Leaders in Math and Science." Massachusetts Department of Education. N.p., 9 Dec. 208. Web. 25 Mar. 2017. <http://www.doe.mass.edu/news/news.aspx?id=4457>.
Morales, Amanda. "Quality Counts Report Examines State Scramble to Put Federal ESSA Law Into Effect." Education Week. Education Week Research Center, 4 Jan. 2017. Web. <http://www.edweek.org/media/quality-counts-2017-news-release.pdf>.
Roth, Cheyna. "As lawmakers push to repeal Common Core, what will it cost Michigan's schools?" Michigan Radio. Michigan Radio, 10 Mar. 2017. Web. 20 Mar. 2017. <http://michiganradio.org/post/lawmakers-push-repeal-common-core-what-wil....
Julie6055. "Michigan PTA Does Not Support House Bill 4192." Livonia PTSA Council. Wordpress, 16 Feb. 2017. Web. 03 Apr. 2017. <https://livoniaptsacouncil.wordpress.com/author/julie6055/>