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Kansas foes of school Common Core standards focus on tests

Updated: 2013-07-10T01:26:41Z

— Opponents of the multistate reading and math standards in place for Kansas public schools pushed the state school board Tuesday not to join other states in developing annual tests to measure how well students learn.

Critics of the Common Core standards want the board to rely on the Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation at the University of Kansas, which has developed previous standardized tests for public schools. Critics of the multistate standards told the board that it shouldn’t abandon the center’s proven work in favor of new, untried tests.

The board adopted the Common Core standards in 2010, concluding that the academic guidelines would improve teaching. Education Commissioner Diane DeBacker said the board isn’t likely to make a follow-up decision about which standardized tests to use before November.

The multistate standards were a project of governors’ and education commissioners’ associations, but critics argue that Kansas is giving up some control over its schools by adopting them. Opponents also believe the standards will prove expensive because schools will need to retrain teachers and buy new books and materials.

Critics raised cost as a potential issue with multistate tests.

“Keeping our assessments local will allow local school boards to put that money back into the classroom,” said Megan King, a Lawrence resident and leader of Kansans Against Common Core.

Small-government, tea-party-aligned Republican lawmakers tried unsuccessfully during this year’s session of the Legislature to block or stall use of the Common Core standards in Kansas.

Supporters of the guidelines argue that cost shouldn’t be an issue because schools face additional expenses whenever the state adjusts its standards — and updating academic guidelines is required by law at least once every seven years.

Kansas is among 25 states in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium for developing student tests, while 22 states and the District of Columbia are part of another group, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.

But DeBacker said using tests from the KU center remains an option.

Board chairwoman Jana Shaver, an Independence Republican, said the board is still gathering information about its options for standardized tests.

“It’s way early in the process for us to be making a decision,” she said.

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