Completing his Common Core U-turn, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, R, offered the explanation that the rigorous academic standards simply aren’t working. That’s news to much of his state’s education leadership, which embraced them as central to preparing students for college, career and life. When we asked the governor’s office in what way the standards are “not working,” no specifics were forthcoming. Christie’s rhetoric about the Common Core has nothing to do with education and everything to do with his possible bid for the White House.
Christie not so long ago was an unabashed supporter of the K-12 standards, developed at the impetus of governors and state education officials who recognized the value of consistent, real-world learning goals. As he tested the waters for a presidential run and encountered implacable opposition to the standards from his party’s most conservative wing, he expressed mounting doubts. On Thursday, he completed his abandonment of principle, announcing an effort to develop a new set of standards that would be unique to New Jersey.
Given the experience of other states that rolled out their own standards because of backlash against Common Core, chances are that any effort in New Jersey will produce something that bears a striking resemblance to Common Core. Unless, of course, Christie adds bridge and traffic management to the expectations set for New Jersey students. The development of duplicative standards will mean added expense and possible disruption for New Jersey teachers, students and parents who have been adjusting to Common Core. If that mattered to Christie, he at least would have waited for the report, due in July, from the commission he appointed last year to review testing and standards.
Apparently waiting until July doesn’t suit Christie’s political calendar. Sadly, he is not the only GOP presidential hopeful turning his back on previous support of Common Core. His fellow panderers include Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. What distinguishes Christie’s betrayal is that he promotes himself as a straight talker willing to stand up for principle, no matter the consequence.
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The Republicans who have shown the most sense and spine on Common Core are former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. They recognize that there is nothing objectionable in improving school standards and in wanting students, no matter where they live, to have the skills needed to succeed in college or pursue careers.