Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
Corbett administration officials are waging a clean-up campaign to try to dispel some of what they call false claims about new Common Core educational measures the state plans to implement this fall.
"So, we've covered no mandate for curriculum, no mandate for textbooks, no national assessments," said Department of Education Deputy Secretary Carolyn Dumaresq nearly 20 minutes into a Monday hearing. She was speaking to the House Education Committee to clarify what, exactly, new Common Core academic standards will entail for public schools.
The Corbett administration halted the measures' implementation in May after criticism of the standards reached a fever pitch.
Some feedback, Dumaresq said, stemmed from misinformation. She offered, by way of example, a general misunderstanding of something as fundamental as the definition of public schools.
"The concern was that we were, in fact, developing regulations that would affect private schools, parochial schools, and home educators," Dumaresq said.
Some Common Core opponents have said the standards represent a loss of local control over education. The new requirements include subject-specific standardized tests students must pass before graduating.
Dumaresq said Monday none of the tests involved will be handed down from the national level, although tests for special education students may become an exception to this rule in the future. She said the standards represent a minimum level of achievement for schools, and that teaching materials will still be chosen at the local level.
"Outreach of curriculum or mandatory reading lists, whether they be from the level or from the state level, would not be put upon our public school system," Dumaresq said. She pointed out that many of the items she was clarifying to state lawmakers was already addressed in the regulations that were halted more than two months ago.
Others take issue with the implementation of Common Core, saying it foists more work on schools without coming alongside additional resources.
Rep. Jake Wheatley (D-Allegheny), asked Dumaresq if she could quantify the costs of the new standards. She couldn't, but she said the inevitability of additional costs was the reason the state has spent several years developing the new standards.
"So the very precious dollars that we have for textbooks, materials, staff development, and curriculum alignment, could be spread out for that," Dumaresq said. "There is no question that school districts have spent money in redoing their textbooks, training their teachers, and rewriting their curriculum to get this alignment done."
Published in State House Sound Bites
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