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Top 10 State EdWatch Posts in 2015: Common Core Is a Major Theme

Efforts to repeal the Common Core State Standards and the tests associated with them were big political news this year in education circles, and our list of this blog's top 10 stories reflects that. Across the country, anti-common-core activists challenged the standards as federal overreach. In the end, only three states ended up repealing the standards and replacing them with their own (some of which look oddly similar to the old ones, we learned).

But the fight isn't over. At least 19 states currently have task forces that soon are expected to deliver to their legislatures changes to their states' common-core-based standards. The new Every Student Succeeds Act prohibits the federal governent from coercing states to adopt the common core or any other particular set of standards.Whether states will continue efforts to rewrite their standards or move on to other pressing issues such as budget cuts and college readiness in their upcoming legislative sessions has yet to be determined. 

Here are the top 10 State Edwatch posts of 2015:

1) Gov. Christie: Teachers' Unions Need a 'Punch in the Face' and Are 'Destructive

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who's also now a Republican candidate for president, has a long, contentious record when it comes to dealing with his state's teachers, including a public shouting match with an especially vocal one. But things reached a fever pitch during an August interview when he described unions as bullies who prioritize growing membership and increasing pay and benefits for their members over educating children. How does he want to deal with them? With a nice punch in the face.  

2) Are Test Scores Proving Fears About Common-Core High School Math Correct?

My colleagues Andrew Ujifusa and Liana Heitin analyzed if the gaps between states' predictions and the actual performance of students' performance on the math portion of the Smarter Balanced test has to do with shortcomings in the common core math standards. It's an interesting debate. Liana has a more detailed rundown here.  

3) As PARCC Sheds States, Is the Common-Core Test Toast or Tougher Than it Looks?  

As states continue to ditch the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College or Careers test, some analysts predicted that the price of the test for states could go up.  

4) Common Core and White Privilege: The Claim With a Long Internet Life

A New Hampshire private school teacher caused a storm when he said he helped write the standards to combat white privilege.  A dormant video from May 2014 of his statements at a conference went viral after Fox News and some other conservative outlets began circulating it earlier this year.  

5) A 'Common-Core Math' Problem: How Many States Have Adopted the Standards? 

With all the debate around the use of the common-core standards, Andrew Ujifusa and Catherine Gewertz tabulated in June how many states were still using the standards. The vast majority were, as it turns out. But that could change this upcoming legislative session. For example, West Virginia's state school board just adopted modified standards. Beware, though—when states "replace common core," oftentimes their new standards end up looking the same as their old standards. 

6) Where's the GOP Pushback to Wis. Gov. Walker's K-12 Agenda?  

Scott Walker, a Republican, is widely praised in conservative education circles for his infamous push to end the rights of the state's teachers union. But Republicans gawked last spring when Walker, who had yet to enter the presidential race, tried to cut $127 million from his state's public schools budget. He also garnered pushback when he tried to make cuts to the state's higher education system.  

7) Kansas Lawmakers OK Shift to Block-Grant Funding, But Court Fight Looms

After a Kansas supreme court ruling that the state's education funding formula was inequitable, the state's legislature shifted to block-grant funding of its schools. School districts still aren't happy with the move, and the governor recently said while it needs tweaks, it's not a long-term solution. 

8) Principals Tell Scott Walker: Your War on 'Big Government' Isn't Helping Schools 

Scott Walker makes our list for the second time for a letter 35 of his state's principals sent him protesting his education policies. While the governor said his efforts combating federal control over education will provide for more local control, the principals argued that his budget cuts, coupled with his efforts to make teacher pay more competitive, actually hampers local school boards' abilities to reform their schools and creates a system of haves and have-nots across the state.  

9) South Carolina Adopts Standards Intended to Replace Common Core 

South Carolina became the second state to replace its common core-based standards after legislators told the state board of education to do so. But a lot of the state's new standards look oddly familiar, Andrew reveals. 

10) N.Y. Regents Boss Claims Too Many Opt-Outs Will Force State Into 'National Test'  

At the height of New York's testing opt-out movement, New York State Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said in an interview with WNYC radio host Brian Lehrer that if parents kept opting out of their state's test, they'd be forced to adopt a national test. But a cursory look at the state's laws and interviews with a testing expert shows that's not true at all. 

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