I’m not sure what to make of Iowa Governor Terry Branstad’s position on the Common Core State Standards.  He reportedly said on the campaign trail that he rejected the Common Core State Standards, and then in an interview with NPR last week during the National Governors Association winter meeting we see:

Not so in Iowa, which until recently did not have state standards at all. Governor Terry Branstad, a Republican, says Iowa teachers are not interested in the Common Core and neither is he.

GOVERNOR TERRY BRANSTAD: Common Core is radioactive. We need to have Iowa standards, something that’s uniquely designed to meet the needs of Iowans.

SANCHEZ: Branstad says the so-called course correction that the teachers unions are calling for is not the issue. He says local control of what teachers teach and what standards kids are held to, that’s the issue.

Dr. Brad Buck, Director of the Iowa Department of Education was asked by State Representative Walt Rogers (R-Cedar Falls about what Branstad’s executive order on the Common Core actually does during a House Education Committee in January.

Dr. Buck said Branstad “Declared that Iowa will remain in control of standards.  We will not give student-level data to the Feds or proxy of the Feds.  There will be a review process.”  He added they will respect local control.  “We do trust local school boards.  This was an affirmation of what we are already doing as a state.”

Except nothing in his executive order talks about repealing the Common Core State Standards, and frankly we are still not certain when and how the review of the Common Core will take place – and how transparent it will actually be.

The Iowa Department of Education lobbied against every bill filed that would have actually halted the Common Core State Standards and even pull the state out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.  So we are to believe that Governor Branstad is against them?

Or is it the term “Common Core” that he is against.

Putting aside the rhetoric here are the facts.  Leslie Beck pointed out in an article at Iowans for Local Control today that Branstad increased Iowa’s involvement with the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, one of two Common Core-aligned consortiums largely funded by the U.S. Department of Education as a result of the Stimulus bill, and they acknowledge that the Common Core is the Iowa Core.

On June 8, 2010 Governor Chet Culver signed the first Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium(SBAC) Memorandum of Understanding(MOU). The SBAC MOU obligates Iowa to adopt and use the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The finalized Common Core State Standards were released June 2, 2010. This gave Iowa 6 days to review the finalized CCSS before committing to adopt them.

On June 1, 2011 Governor Terry Branstad submitted an addendum to the MOU. The addendum requested a role change in the Consortium, changing Iowa from an Advisory State to a Governing State. This addendum states: “We have adopted the Common Core Standards which are known as our Iowa Core Standards. Our new Governor, State Board Chairperson, and State Director of Education believe this is the right time for Iowa to be involved in building a system of formative, interim, and summative assessments, organized around the Common Core Standards.”

You can read the MOU here.

He didn’t have a problem with the Common Core then.  The Iowa Department of Education still very much supports the Common Core State Standards, and we’re still involved with Smarter Balanced.  As far as a review is concerned nothing the Iowa State Board of Education has done gives me any indication that they will change anything.

So if Governor Branstad is to believed the very first thing he would do is pull Iowa out of Smarter Balanced.  If he believes the standards are “radioactive” why would we want to invest in an assessment that is aligned to those very standards.  Secondly his executive order states, “No Constitutional right of Iowa children and their families shall be violated through an overreach by the federal government into Iowa’s educational system.”  That would carry more weight if Governor Branstad would direct the Iowa Department of Education to stop applying for Federal grants.  It’s hard to take the executive order seriously when they continue to do so potentially exposing the state to more federal strings that always come attached with federal money.  Third actually set into motion a pause and review process that will begin this year.

If he’s truly serious, and this is more than campaign year rhetoric, he should do these three things at minimum.

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore (CC-by-SA 2.0)

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