After Oklahoma Rejects Common Core, Replacement Standards Rejected For Failing To Prepare Students

CREDIT: AP/Sue Ogrocki

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R)

In June, Oklahoma repealed the Common Core curriculum standards. On Thursday, the Department of Education (DOE) rejected the state’s plan to reuse its old academic standards because they will not prepare high school graduates for college and careers.

When Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin (R) signed the Common Core repeal bill, she said confidently, “We are capable of developing our own Oklahoma academic standards that will be better than the Common Core.” And while that may well be true, the problem for Oklahoma’s students today is that they haven’t developed anything yet.

Instead, the state is dusting off and reusing its old standards despite originally adopting the Common Core to “give Oklahoma students the opportunity to make an even greater impact in our state, nation, and world.”

Like any state, Oklahoma’s K-12 education system is based on a set of academic standards that detail what students should know and be able to do. Its standards, which were first developed in the late 1990s, are called the Priority Academic Students Skills, or PASS. The problem is, however, that Oklahoma’s colleges and universities cannot validate PASS standards as college- and career-ready. This signals to the rest of the country’s colleges and universities that graduates from Oklahoma will not be ready for college.

Because Oklahoma’s standards cannot be validated by its own universities, the DOE rejected Oklahoma’s application to extend its waiver from the strict requirements of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Beginning in 2011, states applied for relief from school accountability and other provisions of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the latest iteration of ESEA. To date, over 40 states have been given waiver extensions and had their statewide education reform plans approved by the DOE.

Oklahoma is only the second state to have its waiver revoked. As a result, it will return to NCLB, the majority of its schools will be identified as “in need of improvement,” and the state’s efforts for more than two years to improve its education system will be lost.

The decision to revoke Oklahoma’s waiver comes on the heels of the state’s repeal of the Common Core State Standards. Adopting the Common Core was not required for states to extend their ESEA waivers since they are simply required to adopt “college- and career- ready standards in at least reading/language arts and mathematics that have been approved and certified by a State network of institutions of higher education.” The Common Core was one option over 40 states elected to use to be rewarded a waiver; however, states like Virginia have been given an ESEA waiver without adopting the Common Core.

In fact, Indiana—another state that recently repealed the Common Core—was awarded an extension for its waiver on Thursday because it replaced the Common Core with rigorous academic standards that its universities validated as college- and career-ready.

As a result of the DOE’s rejection of Oklahoma’s standards, college admissions counselors will have reasons to doubt the qualifications of a student from Oklahoma even with good grades since those marks have little connection with what it takes to be successful in college. In other words, Oklahoma has made its high school graduates less competitive with college applicants from across the country.

Max Marchitello is Policy Analyst for the Pre-K-12 Education Policy team at the Center for American Progress.