State Education department spokesman: Barresi anticipates low costs for implementing “Common Core”

 Damon Gardenhire, communications director for Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi, asserts high cost estimates for implementation of the Common Core are inaccurate. In addressing the issue, the agency has stressed Barresi’s distinctions between “curriculum” and “standards” in terms of the “common core” of subject matter mastery or awareness in public schools.

At least in terms of Oklahoma, the agency leadership contends estimates of high development and implementation costs are “a red herring.”

In an exchange with CapitolBeatOK, Gardenhire reinforced themes Barresi expressed at an interim hearing on the issue conducted earlier this fall.

Gardenhire said, “We anticipate the costs of implementation to be covered by the current state budget that includes such line items as professional development and assessments. The costs will be comparable to revision of standards the department already conducts.

“There may be some additional technology costs at the district level, but these are technology upgrades school districts should be implementing regardless of whether Oklahoma implements the Common Core State Standards. So the argument about costs is essentially a red herring.”

Gardenhire said Barresi disagrees with the contentions of the Heritage Foundation and several conservative policy analysts that the common core standards are a federal mandate.

He told CapitolBeatOK, “Oklahoma’s decision to pursue implementation of the Common Core State Standards is not a federal mandate. The standards were developed by states, and Oklahoma has played a leading role in that process, including as a governing board member of PARCC. The implementation of the Common Core State Standards will continue to be the state-led initiative it always has been.”

PARCC is the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, also known simply as the partnership.
 Gardenhire continued, “The Common Core State Standards were developed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers working with teachers, school leaders and math and English experts.

“Superintendent Barresi and other state leaders understand that if Oklahoma is going to succeed economically, the state must rise to the challenge of fostering an education system that emphasizes rigor, accountability and student achievement.

“Recent studies indicate that Oklahoma students have fallen behind in the global competition for excellence (one study ranked Oklahoma among the worst 10 states in producing top-achieving math students) while remediation numbers for Oklahoma high school graduates entering college remain unacceptably high.

“The standards provide a framework for math and English skills – vital areas if Oklahoma students are going to be prepared to compete for jobs in the Twenty-first century.”

Jim Stergios of the Pioneer Institute in Massachusetts, writing recently on the Boston Globe blog, estimated implementation of the Common Core in California will run $3.3 million per public school district. Some estimates for the Bear State range from $750 million to more than $800 million to implement the Common Core.

Stergios is investigating implementation costs nationwide.

Gardenhire, speaking on Barresi’s behalf, asserted the state Oklahoma “has three options with respect to standards: 1. Keep the same set of standards it already has. 2. Stay the course to implement the Common Core State Standards. 3. Attempt to create a new set of Oklahoma standards.

Option 1 really isn’t an option at all, since it is clear to most that the current Oklahoma standards set the bar too low and do not move our state to the goal of preparing high school graduates to be college, career and citizen ready.

Option 2 is the course Oklahoma has already decided to pursue, and one that will allow the state to take advantage of economies of scale and will use state funds in an efficient and effective manner.

Option 3 would be a very expensive choice for the state, and would likely result in diluted and low standards that would put Oklahoma farther behind in the race for excellence.

“As has already been thoroughly established, these are standards — not curricula. Curricula is decided at the local district level. Local districts choose what curriculum works best for them in reaching the goals of the Common Core State Standards.

“A standard is analogous to the blueprint for a building, while curriculum is analogous to all of the details that go into the finished product of a building (interior furnishing, detailed layouts for individual floors, fixtures, etc.)”

Superintendent Barresi’s views on the merits of the Common Core contrast with perspectives from a diverse range of elected officials and policy analysts who can be characterized as conservative or, in some cases, libertarian.

In late November, the education task force of the American Legislative Exchange Council passed model legislation opposing the common core standards, according to Jay P. Greene. xNeal McCluskey posted an analysis for Cato@Liberty concluding the Common core is another example of “top-down” federal control of education policy.

Rachel Sheffield of the Heritage Foundation has pegged the cost of implementing Common Core standards at $30 billion, nationwide.