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State Education Board Says It Will Largely Continue Common Core Standards

Education Officials Promise NJ Will Not Venture Far From Common Core Standards
Chris Christie
Chris Christie in New Brunswick Charlie Kratovil

TRENTON, NJ—Education officials said at the July 8 New Jersey State Board of Education meeting that, while the state no longer officially subscribes to "Common Core" standards, it will try not to drastically change those standards. 

The education standards have become increasingly polarizing in recent years, with conservative politicians citing them as an example of federal overreach.

Although the Common Core has garnered the support of the Obama administration, the standards are not federal, but rather the work of education officials and governors from across the United States.

Forty-six states signed on to the Common Core when it was launched in 2010, including New Jersey.

Governor Chris Christie pulled NJ out of the Common Core in May, saying that it "simply was not working," and calling for state education standards that "are even higher and come directly from our communities."

"This new era can be even greater by adopting new standards right here in New Jersey – not 200 miles away on the banks of the Potomac River," the Governor added. 

But officials in his administration indicated that the new standards are still in the works, and that the changes are not likely to be major.

"We will not be tearing down and starting over," Assistant Education Commissioner Kim Harrington said at the meeting. 

“We will be improving on what exists today and not starting from scratch," Harrington added.

Department of Education Commissioner David Hespe reiterated these expectations.

“We haven’t seen wholesale changes, but I expect that educators and parents will lead us on this, and we’ll learn from them,” he told NJ Spotlight. “Let’s not have a conclusion here before the process concludes.”

Christie's position on Common Core has flip-flopped since 2013, when the Governor was an ardent supporter of the standards.

"We're doing Common Core in New Jersey and we're gonna continue," Christie said at a Las Vegas education summit held that year.

"I think part of the Republican opposition that you'll see in some corners in Congress is that knee-jerk reaction that's happening in Washington right now, that if the president likes something, then the Republicans in Congress don't," he added. 

The Governor's critics have argued that his new position against the Common Core is an attempt to earn support from Republicans in other states for his 2016 Presidential campaign.

New Jersey Education Association President Wendell Steinhauer  said it was "illogical" for Christie to pull New Jersey out of the Common Core, yet show his vigorous support for "PARCC" standardized testing, in the same speech. 

During the announcement in May, the Governor stated that he would form a 23-member review committee for academic standards.  Three subcommittees would comprise an additional 78 members. 

The review committee will look over the existing K-12 language arts and math standards, and determine what needs to be added, changed or removed. The first meeting is expected to take place by the end of this month.

The six-month process will feature "listening tours," focus groups, online surveys, and nearly a dozen meetings, before the report is presented to the State Board of Education by the beginning of 2016.

The results will affect roughly 1.4 million public school students across New Jersey.