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New Jersey’s Common Core ‘Replacement’ Is Pretty Much Just Common Core

A committee established to review Common Core in New Jersey after Gov. Chris Christie declared the standards were “not working,” has recommended keeping the vast majority of these guidelines, according to new report released Monday.

New Jersey’s Standards Review Committee, which incorporated input from teachers, administrators and parents, was set-up by Christie last May to review Common Core. Christie said the standards were “simply not working” for the state.

Like many other Republicans, Christie was originally a Common Core supporter, but repudiated it early in 2015, shortly before he announced his presidential candidacy. Christie’s well-timed epiphany left many conservatives unconvinced that his change of heart was genuine.

Now, the committee has delivered its recommendations to the New Jersey State Board of Education. It proposed 232 changes to the 1,427 Common Core standards the state uses to guide math and English education from kindergarten through high school. Of these 232 changes, most are minor, slightly adjusting wording or adding additional clarification. For example, the committee proposed changing a standard for K-12 students that expects them to “ask and answer questions about key details in a text,” to also note that those questions are of the “who, what, where, why” variety.

Some of the changes, though, are more substantial. For instance, English standards have been altered to de-emphasize the close reading of unfamiliar texts (a favorite approach in Common Core). Instead, the proposal calls for more emphasis on background knowledge and context when reading texts. Several English standards have also been shifted to new grade levels. Almost all significant changes are to English standards, while math is almost entirely unchanged, save for some adjustments to wording.

Kimberley Harrington, New Jersey’s chief academic officer, emphasized that they were not scrapping Common Core.

“We were not looking to develop a whole new set of standards, but rather to improve upon what we had,” Harrington said, according to NJ.com.

Notably, the standards leave enough of Common Core in place that the committee recommended the state keep using standardized tests produced by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) — a multi-state consortium creating Common Core-aligned tests that has endured much backlash. Last year, several thousand New Jersey students opted-out of PARCC tests in protest.

The recommendations will be reviewed and approved by the board of education before taking effect. If approved, the new standards will be adopted starting in 2017.

The relatively moderate alterations to Common Core are similar to those seen in many other states that have chosen to review the standards. In North Carolina, an effort to overhaul Common Core stumbled when a committee failed to recommend any specific changes. In other states like South Carolina and Indiana, anti-Common Core activists were disappointed by “replacement” standards they say sported mere cosmetic changes.

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