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House narrowly defeats bill to pull out of group developing Common Core assessments

BISMARCK -- After lengthy and passionate debate, House lawmakers on Wednesday narrowly defeated a bill that would have forced North Dakota to withdraw from the consortium that develops assessments for the Common Core education standards.

BISMARCK - After lengthy and passionate debate, House lawmakers on Wednesday narrowly defeated a bill that would have forced North Dakota to withdraw from the consortium that develops assessments for the Common Core education standards.
Before the vote, House Bill 1461 was divided into two parts at the request of Rep. Ben Koppelman, R-West Fargo.
Division A, which would have required the state to pull out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium on July 1, failed 43-46, with five members absent.
Division B, covering the other eight sections of the bill - including provisions limiting the authority of the state superintendent of public instruction, outlining the creation of new content standards and prohibiting the use of Common Core standards - was soundly defeated 89-0.
Rep. Mike Nathe, chairman of the House Education Committee that gave the bill a 9-4 do-not-pass recommendation, said the “vast majority” of teachers and school administrators support the Common Core standards and assessments, which state Superintendent Kirsten Baesler said were developed with input from more than 130 North Dakota educators.
“What is wrong with raising the bar and challenging our students?” Nathe said.
Rep. Jim Kasper, R-Fargo, the bill’s lead sponsor, framed the issue as a choice between regaining state sovereignty over decisions affecting North Dakota’s education system or allowing out-of-state entities and an overreaching federal government to make decisions. He said lawmakers had received 700 to 800 emails from parents, teachers and even some school administrators.
“They are terribly concerned about the impact Common Core is having on our kids here in North Dakota,” he said.
Jerry Ketterling, a Bismarck parent who testified in favor of the bill during its committee hearing, said he was disappointed in the bill’s defeat.
“It’s clear the Legislature’s representatives are not listening to the people,” he said, noting 1,400 petitions were submitted from people across the state opposed to Common Core.
Legislative rules allow the bill to be brought back for reconsideration by any representative who was part of the prevailing vote or absent.
The 90-minute debate got off to an unexpected start when Rep. Mike Schatz, R-New England, successfully moved to withdraw a minority report proposing amendments that were rejected by the committee.
The report underscored the division within the Republican Party on the Common Core issue, and it would have been an unusual step: House Majority Leader Al Carlson, R-Fargo, said it was the first time during his 22 years in the House that he could recall a majority party member bringing a minority report to the chamber.
Kasper said the report “had some flaws in it” that didn’t reflect the bill’s true intent.
Referring to the “deep divide” between bill supporters and opponents, Rep. Cynthia Schreiber Beck, R-Wahpeton, said the committee’s majority determined that the bill “would not be a workable, beneficial law for North Dakotans.”
Nathe said the consortium, of which North Dakota is a governing member, “works for the states, it’s not the other way around.” He said withdrawing from the 21-state group could put North Dakota in violation of federal testing requirements and threaten $3.5 million in federal funding for low-achieving students and those eligible for free and reduced meals.
“It’s not worth the risk,” he said.
Rep. Rick Becker, R-Bismarck, raised concerns that local curriculum will be affected because teachers will teach to the tests developed by the consortium, based at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Another bill supporter, Rep. Chris Olson, R-Fargo, argued that North Dakota could seek out other assessment providers as other states have done.
“As far as the question about Common Core, that is an open question and will be settled by the Department of Public Instruction with input from parents and teachers,” he said.
Most North Dakota schools began using the Common Core standards two to three years ago, and they were fully implemented in 2013-14. Nathe pointed out that schools can start administering the assessments next month.
“I find it very interesting we want to get rid of the test we haven’t even given yet,” he said.
Baesler said afterward that she was “very pleased” with lawmakers’ unanimous vote not to remove authority from educators and the DPI, and that she will carry out their direction on standards and assessments.
For educators, “I think it does provide the stability that they testified they were looking for,” she said.
Baesler said she also has heard clearly and come to understand there was “an obvious disconnect” in the process of developing the state standards.
“I do vow to ensure that our communities are engaged in a meaningful way and improve that process as we move forward,” she said.

Reach Nowatzki at (701) 255-5607 or by email at mnowatzki@forumcomm.com .

 

Related Topics: EDUCATION
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