Gov. Dannel P. Malloy sat down with his newly restructured P-20 Council Friday to discuss moving the state toward implementing Common Core education standards, a process he acknowledges will almost certainly highlight bad news for the state.
Malloy restructured the P-20 Council, originally created by Gov. M. Jodi Rell in 2009, last month to reflect state agency reorganizations under his watch. The group’s goal is to streamline the state’s various education systems to ensure students are prepared to enter the workforce.
Part of that mission will be to help implement Common Core education standards, which will allow states to more easily assess how well their students stack up against others throughout the country.
Richard Laine, director of the National Governors Association’s Education Division, said Common Core standards will be a good move for the state but will highlight the fact that few students are as adequately prepared for college or the workforce as state-level testing seems to indicate.
Laine said that’s because the No Child Left Behind Act required states to set their own standards and decide what score a student must achieve to be considered prepared. As a result, a lot of states set a low standard so more kids would appear proficient.
But when Common Core standards are in place and there is a national bar set at a standard similar to how proficiency is defined under the National Assessment of Educational Progress, Laine said it will be evident that many of those students are not proficient.
Laine brought slides to illustrate his point. On average the top 12 performing states on National Assessment of Educational Progress consider about 75 percent of their students proficient. But by the NAEP standards only about 41 percent of those kids are considered proficient.
“Does that worry anybody?” he asked.
Malloy used words like “scary” and “frightening” as he talked about the results that will likely be available two and a half years from now.
“What we’re being told today is that a majority of almost every measurement group will not be found to be proficient,” he said. “… That’s a scary proposition but it’s an opportunity to start work now and get the work done so we understand the implications of those test scores and we’re already changing our approach to education.”
Laine said it was important to build a coalition of interested parties to help the implementation process, in part so that Malloy doesn’t take the political hit for what’s sure to be bad news on his own.
“If the governor, in two and a half years, is the only individual at the podium with [Education Commissioner] Stefan [Pryor] that are reporting the bad results, he’s going to get killed,” Laine said.
Laine suggested that the coalition include other commissioners, business leaders, and parents. When the time comes to announce the results, he said they should be there at the podium with Malloy.
“Then people can start to say, ‘We believe it, it’s not going away and we will change practice and we will change what we do.’ If he’s alone, he gets killed,” he said.
If he gets killed, it won’t be alone. Forty-five other states are also in the process of adopting the Common Core standards. Malloy said that’s because this country has heard the wakeup call when it comes to education reform.
“America is failing at the thing that it always did best and that was compete,” he said.
Malloy said this country is no longer producing enough scientists or engineers. It’s not retaining many jobs and high school graduation rates have dropped, he said. The U.S. was once the top ranked country when it came to graduation rates. It’s now the 18th.
“That’s a wakeup call. If you 18 to one, that’s a good thing. If you go from one to 18, that’s pretty horrendous,” Malloy said.