Oklahoma's recent decision to drop the Common Core State Standards was motivated purely by politics and not necessarily what's best for students, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said during a White House press briefing Monday. But the move doesn't mean that Oklahoma is now on the fast track to losing federal money, he said.
Duncan read from a speech the state's governor, Mary Fallin, a Republican, made earlier this year, in which she asserted that the common core standards are "not a federal program or a federal curriculum."
"What's changed?" Duncan asked. "Politics changed."
Duncan also took a dig at the Sooner State, noting that some 40 percent of its high school graduates have to take remedial classes once they enroll in college because K-12 schools didn't prepare them for the challenges of higher education. That's a big waste of time and money, he said.
"We don't think that's good for those young people, their families or the country," he said.
But, in response to a reporter's question, Duncan made it clear that Oklahoma isn't necessarily on the verge of losing federal funding because of its decision. He said that Oklahoma and other states that back out of common core can stay in the department's good graces, as long as they replace those standards with another set that will get students ready for college and the workforce.
"We are partnering with folks who have high standards, whether or not they have common core or their own standards," he said.
This isn't a new point for Duncan. States had to agree to adopt standards that would prepare students for post-secondary education and the job world in order to get waivers from the No Child Left Behind Act. Common core counted, but states could also decide to set their own standards, as long as their state post-secondary institutions signed off on them.
So far, three states have pulled out of the common core: Indiana, Oklahoma, and South Carolina. Those last two states made the decision to pull the plug only recently, so it's tough to say how the department will react. But, so far, Duncan hasn't put any state on high-risk status for its waiver because of anything dealing with standards or assessments. (He's reserved that only for states that run afoul of the department on teacher evaluation. And only one state, Washington, has lost its waiver.) The administration did decide, however, to place conditions on Indiana's waiver, right after the Hoosier State dissed the common core last month.