Arkansas governor's task force studying Common Core kicks off hearings on education standards

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LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — A governor-appointed task force studying whether the Common Core education standards are a good fit for Arkansas held the first of several daylong hearings Thursday at the state Capitol.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson told members of the Governor's Council on Common Core Review that he hopes the group finds an "Arkansas solution" rather than something "dictated by Washington." He later told reporters that he would like to see initial recommendations from the task force this summer.

"I just want the recommendations to be consistent with what I've articulated, which is high standards, high expectations for the students, a level of transparency so we knew how we compared with the other states," he said.

The Common Core standards are math and English benchmarks that describe what students are expected to know after completing each grade. More than 40 states have adopted the standards.

The Obama administration embraced the standards and encouraged states to use them, but Common Core has faced increasing criticism, primarily from conservatives. A number of states have since retreated from Common Core, fearing the standards may allow too much influence from federal education officials.

Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin, who heads the Governor's Council on Common Core Review, said the group will examine the math and English standards as well as standardized testing and student data privacy. He asked the group to take a "30-foot view" of the standards.

Officials from universities and high schools in the state, the Arkansas Department of Education and the Arkansas State Teachers Association spoke during the hearing. The 16-member task force asked them questions about how the standards are taught and evaluated.

Department of Education representatives said the standards were fully implemented last year in Arkansas and that school districts can decide what methods they use to teach the standards.

The task force will hold several hearings during the next few months.

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