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March 11, 2013

State education curriculum on brink of legislative control

College and Career Ready Standards focus on math, language arts

— The Senate Education Policy Committee is expected to decide Wednesday whether to approve a polarizing bill that could give the Alabama Legislature final approval for curriculum and repeal the Alabama College and Career Ready Standards.

CCRS originated from the Common Core Standards Initiative, which was developed in 2010 by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers to improve college and career preparation, and to provide consistent state-to-state curriculum.

Forty-five states have adopted common core standards in math and English language arts for grades K-12. Texas, Virginia, Minnesota, Alaska and Nebraska have not joined the consortium, which provides basic standards many states have customized into specific math and English guidelines.

The Alabama Board of Education voted 7-2 in 2010 to adopt the common core standards, and re-adopted and renamed them as the CCRS in 2011 by a 6-3 decision. The new math coursework was implemented in August 2012, and the revamped English courses will take effect during the 2013-14 school year.

The Alabama standards are “designed to give our students a boost by connecting their math and reading in the classroom to real-word problem-solving and career application,” according to Dr. Eric G. Mackey, executive director of School Superintendents of Alabama. “Standards for Alabama students are carefully crafted and selected by teams of educators and parents. (They) decided to combine the best of Alabama’s prior standards with the best of the common core standards.”

Bill debate

The committee will meet at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday in Montgomery to debate the six-page proposed legislation, which was introduced Feb. 12 as Senate Bill 190 and House Bill 254.

Sen. Dick Brewbaker, R-Montgomery, sponsored SB 190 and patterned it after similar legislation in Indiana. Fourteen of the 35 members of the Republican-controlled Senate are co-sponsoring the bill, including Bill Holtzclaw of Madison and Shadrack McGill of Huntsville.

Brewbaker chairs the nine-member Senate Education Committee, which includes Holtzclaw and McGill, Republicans Trip Pittman and Gerald Allen and Democrats Vivian Figures, Hank Sanders and Quinton Ross.

The identical HB 254 is sponsored by Rep. Jim Barton, R-Mobile, and co-sponsored by Republicans Wes Long, David Sessions and Ed Henry.

If SB 190 passes out of committee, the bill would go to the Senate Rules Committee. The Rules Committee in the Senate and House determines which bills are brought to a vote in the Legislature.

All legislation has to be approved by both chambers before being sent to Gov. Robert Bentley, who as president of the state Board of Education voted against keeping CCRS during the November 2011 board meeting, along with longtime board members Stephanie Bell and Betty Peters.

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