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Common Core faces opposition in Iowa, but so far efforts to end state standards have failed

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DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowa conservatives are continuing to fight the Common Core education standards, but it isn't clear that the program will go away at the state level any time soon.

The Common Core is a set of english and math standards that spell out what students should know and when. The standards have been attacked by conservatives, who say the federal government is overreaching into classrooms. Many Republican governors are now backing efforts to delay or revoke the standards.

Gov. Terry Branstad has not said he wants to eradicate Common Core here, though last year he signed an executive order clarifying that the state would continue to maintain control over education standards and testing, not the federal government. And earlier this month Branstad removed Iowa from an organization created to develop an assessment system for the Common Core education standards.

Branstad spokesman Jimmy Centers said the governor "supports Iowa's high academic state standards."

With a goal of improving education outcomes, the National Governors Association started developing the Common Core standards in 2009 and they were quickly adopted by more than 40 states with little controversy. But conservative outrage has grown since then. The Core has some liberal critics too, including teachers groups that question the use of test scores to assess instructors' performance.

Iowa established a set of state standards known as the Iowa Core in 2008. The Common Core math and language education standards were blended into the state program in 2010. A state-created task force is now analyzing the best assessment options for Iowa, but no decision has been made. A review process to see how the standards are working is supposed to start this fall.

Conservative activist Shane Vander Hart, who founded a group opposing Common Core called Iowans for Local Control, said he was concerned about national testing and the potential for sharing data about Iowa students. He also questioned if the standards will improve outcomes.

"There's no evidence that shows that centralizing standards will raise student achievement," he said.

Bills introduced in the state House and Senate designed to roll back the standards failed to receive approval this year. But efforts will likely continue in the next legislative session, said Rep. Walt Rogers, a Republican from Cedar Falls who has supported legislation opposing Common Core.

"I think most of my constituents do not want us to be tied to the federal government and the federal standards," said Rogers. "They don't want Washington telling us how to educate our kids. I think a lot of people don't want Des Moines telling us."

Tammy Wawro, president of the Iowa State Education Association, which represents about 34,000 teachers, support staff and other educators, said the union supports education standards in Iowa.

"This isn't a curriculum; this is some baseline standards students should have," Wawro said. "It's unfortunate it has become politicized."

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