Thursday marked a high point for opponents of Common Core, as Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin signed legislation making her state the third to ditch the national educational standards.
In a press briefing at the White House on Monday, though, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan struck back by vaguely suggesting that the federal government may now punish Oklahoma.
Duncan asserted that “40 percent of high school graduates” in Oklahoma “have to take remedial classes when they go to college” and only “25 percent of Oklahoma’s eighth-graders in math are proficient.”
The Obama administration education chief declared that the Common Core Standards Initiative is a panacea for this problem.
“We got a dropout problem we got to deal with,” Duncan said. “We want to make sure our high school graduates aren’t having to take remedial classes, burn up Pell grants, burn up student loans taking non-credit bearing. And right now, roughly 40 percent of those graduates in Oklahoma are having to do that. We don’t think that’s good for those young people, their families, or for the country.”
Duncan had ominous words for states that buck the Common Core trend.
“We partner with states whether they’re in Common Core or have their own high standards. But where we will challenge status quo is when states dummy down standards,” he warned.
The education secretary noted that Fallin, The Sooner State governor, had defended Common Core up until a few weeks before she signed the bill eliminating Common Core and immediately reverting back to older tests and standards.
“If you go back to just a couple of months ago,” the education secretary said, “This is what Gov. Fallin said about higher standards – I’m quoting her –she said, ‘The standards’ – and I quote – “outline what students need to be college- and career-ready.’”
Duncan blamed the administration of George W. Bush for decreased “college- and career-ready” standards.
“What we’re reacting to, as you guys may remember under No Child Left Behind – it’s not the intent – but we had about 20 states actually dummy down their standards to make politicians look good,” he said.
Oklahoma’s anti-Common Core bill passed the state legislature with veto-proof majorities, but Fallin could have killed the bill for at least a year with a veto.
She chose to kill Common Core instead. (RELATED: Fallin Gives In, Kills Common Core In Oklahoma)
“Unfortunately, federal overreach has tainted Common Core,” Fallin said in a statement. “President [Barack] Obama and Washington bureaucrats have usurped Common Core in an attempt to influence state education standards. The results are predictable. What should have been a bipartisan policy is now widely regarded as the president’s plan to establish federal control of curricula, testing and teaching strategies.”
In November, Duncan insisted that “white suburban moms” are to blame for the unrelenting opposition to Common Core standards. (RELATED: Arne Duncan blames irrational angst of ‘white suburban moms’ for Common Core pushback)
In the fall, for the first time, most states and the District of Columbia began implementing Common Core, which attempts to standardize various K-12 curricula around the country.
South Carolina moved to phase out the standards a few days before Oklahoma did. Indiana pulled out earlier this year.