The Virginia Board of Education will not adopt the Common Core State Standards, an initiative to set the same educational standards in English and math across the country.
The state board announced Thursday that it is committed to the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) program. It also opposes a requirement that states adopt the new standards to be competitive in federal grant programs.
The announcement comes shortly after Virginia declined to compete in the second round of the U.S. Department of Education’s Race to the Top program. The competition, which encourages states to adopt common standards, didn’t award any funding to Virginia in the first round of Race to the Top.
In a letter to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Gov. Bob McDonnell wrote, “The Virginia Standards of Learning and the corresponding state accountability and testing program have a proven track record of success, spanning four gubernatorial administrations of both political parties. I cannot support setting aside the proven Virginia Standards of Learning program, nor commit to adopt these common core standards that have not been completed, implemented or fully evaluated.” He added that to be competitive for a Race to the Top grant under the current rules, Virginia would have to lower its standards.
The Common Core State Standards is a state-led effort coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). The standards, which would indicate what each student should understand by each grade level, were developed in collaboration with teachers, school administrators and experts, according to the initiative’s website.
The final draft, released in March, received nearly 10,000 comments from teachers, college educators, civil rights groups, English language teachers and students with disabilities. The Common Core initiative says its standards are aligned with college and work expectations, are clear and consistent, include rigorous content and application of knowledge, build upon strengths and lessons of current state standards, are informed by other top-performing countries and are evidence-based.
The Virginia BOE believes its standards already meet those criteria, however. In its statement, the board wrote, “The Standards of Learning are clear and rigorous and have won the acceptance and trust of Virginia educators. Whatever adjustments might be warranted to ensure alignment of the SOL with the Common Core State Standards can be made within the process through which the Board of Education exercises its constitutional authority to establish standards for the commonwealth’s public schools.”
The board went on to say its approach makes sense for Virginia because:
•The state’s system of accountability and support is founded on the SOL.
•The commonwealth is implementing recently revised standards in English and mathematics that meet national benchmarks for college- and career-ready content.
•The revised English and math SOL and the Common Core are comparable in content and rigor.
•The subtle differences do not justify disruption to instruction, accountability, professional development and teacher preparation.
•Adoption of the Common Core would leave teachers without curriculum frameworks, scope and sequence guides and other materials aligned with the standards students are expected to meet.
•Virginia’s accountability program is built on a validated assessment system aligned with the SOL; validated assessments do not exist for the Common Core.
•Virginia’s investment in the SOL since 1995 far exceeds the $250 million the state could have received by abandoning the SOL and competing in phase two of the federal program Race to the Top.
The Common Core standards have already been adopted by Illinois and Oklahoma; Alabama and Georgia are considering its adoption. Learn more about the standards here.