Christie’s Common Core Constitutional Conundrum

chris-christie-press-conferenceI pointed out that it is impossible to dump Common Core if you keep PARCC as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has suggested.  David Sciarra at the Education Law Center suggests that it is also unconstitutional.

If new standards are implemented that deviate from the Common Core, on which the PARCC tests are based, the State assessments must also change. Otherwise the proposal will run afoul of the State’s obligation to ensure students a “thorough and efficient” education under the New Jersey Constitution.  

The Governor’s plan, while short on detail, implicates the connection between New Jersey’s curriculum standards and assessments, an issue at the center of the decades-long legal struggle to provide a constitutional education to all students, especially those in poverty, with language barriers and with disabilities.

In 1997, the New Jersey Supreme Court – in its landmark Abbott v. Burke IV opinion – decided that the Legislature’s newly adopted “standards-based” approach to education substantively defined “a constitutional thorough and efficient education.” The Court also approved implementation of State curriculum standards in language arts, mathematics and five other content areas – the Core Curriculum Content Standards (CCCS) – and a new set of State assessments at the fourth, eighth and eleventh grades to measure student performance in meeting the CCCS.

In Abbott IV, the Supreme Court ruled that a constitutional education includes both the State’s curriculum content standards and its assessment system. Most importantly, Abbott IV makes clear that State assessments to measure student performance on the CCCS must be tied to or, in education terms, “aligned” with the CCCS.

This link is crucial to ensure New Jersey students are tested only on the specific curriculum content actually taught in classrooms and are afforded maximum exposure to, and the opportunity to learn, the content to be measured by the State.

Dumping Common Core is not unconstitutional in New Jersey in and of itself, but dumping the standards and making kids be responsible for a Common Core-aligned assessment like PARCC is unconstitutional.  I believe it’s also insane.