Lansing— State schools Superintendent Mike Flanagan ordered the Michigan Department of Education to resume implementation of the state’s Common Core State Standards after the Michigan Senate adopted a resolution Thursday to restart funding.
Flanagan directed staff at the education department to resume all activities helping local school districts implement the standards and statewide assessments “following an affirmative action today by the Michigan Senate.”
Yet Sen. Howard Walker, who introduced House Concurrent Resolution 11 in the Senate, said it still needs House approval before funding for the standards can resume.
On Thursday, the Michigan Senate on a voice vote adopted the resolution that resumes funding and continues implementation of the standards.
Walker said Thursday afternoon that several changes were made by the Senate to the House concurrent resolution, which means HCR 11 must return to the House for final approval.
Walker said the Senate added language that allows local districts to create their own standards as long as they are career- and college ready.
The Senate also took language out of the resolution about Michigan using Smarter Balanced, the computer adaptive test aligned with Common Core.
“We do believe in computer-adaptive testing. We think the marketplace may be able to provide a better tool,” Walker said. The state still can choose Smarter Balanced, he said, as long as it puts out requests for proposals for assessment models.
“I’m real optimistic and hoping the House will concur and we can move forward,” Walker said.
But Rep. Tom McMillin, R-Rochester Hills, said the Senate vote came as a surprise. He said he thought the House and Senate were working toward a compromise “and they just spring this on us.”
McMillin, who was one of 21 Republicans voting against the House version of the resolution, predicted there will be increased opposition to the revised version sent back from the Senate.
“They made significant changes for the worse, after we had spent a lot of time crafting it,” he said.
One objectionable change is what seems like the elimination of any ability for the state to make its own revisions to Smarter Balanced, McMillin said.
“We wanted it to be flexible. We felt we needed to be able to change the test,” he said. “You teach to the test. If you have a national test, you essentially have a national curriculum.”
McMillin said the Senate version also took out House provisions that would have given local schools more control over K-3 requirements. He said an array of educational professionals and early-childhood experts say the “rigor” of K-3 Common Core Standards will be harmful to children that age.
The House version, he said, provided flexibility for local school districts and parents: “If you think it’s going to harm your kids, you don’t have to do it,” McMillin said. “Their changes make it clear there’ll be no attempt to have flexibility at the state level.”
In July, Republican lawmakers blocked state funding for the standards amid concerns that they intrude on local school control.
The Legislature inserted language in the Michigan Department of Education’s fiscal year 2013-14 budget prohibiting the department from using any funds on the implementation of the standards and Smarter Balanced assessments “unless an affirmative action of the Legislature authorizing implementation of said standards or assessments is provided.”