The Common Core Report Card: Chris Christie Gets a D+

In our Common Core report card, we graded Chris Christie and all of the GOP candidates based on the three following criteria: fighting the Common Core, protecting state and local decision-making on education, and defending child and family privacy. Then we averaged the three grades together for one final grade.

What does each grade mean?

A … Champions the issue, e.g., offers legislation, makes it a centerpiece issue.
… Professes support, but has not provided leadership or otherwise championed it.
C … Has neither helped nor hurt the cause.
D … Has an overall negative record on the issue.
F … Robustly and consistently works against the issue.

So how did Chris Christie do?

Ending the Common Core System: D+
Protecting State and Local Decision Making: D+
Protecting Child and Family Privacy: D+

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

Overall Grade: D+

Chris Christie has had a varied history with the Common Core.

In 2013 he was quoted as saying, “We’re doing Common Core in New Jersey and we’re going to continue. And this is one of those areas where I’ve agreed more with the President than not.”

By 2014, Christie had changed his tune: “I have some real concerns about Common Core and how it’s being rolled out and that’s why I put a commission together to study it.”

In early 2015, Christie had again taken a newly evolved position as he said, “I have grave concerns about the way this is being done, and especially the way the Obama administration has tried to implement it through tying federal funding to these things.”

During his appearance at CPAC, Christie told Laura Ingraham that he had regrets related to the implementation of the Common Core, but shortly after, he urged parents not to opt their children out of the Common Core-aligned PARCC tests.

More recently, Christie has pledged to do away with the Common Core in New Jersey; however, he has also stated that the state will retain the PARCC test, which assesses student performance based on the Common Core Standards.

In late April, Christie elaborated on his initial support for the Common Core, stating: “We signed on to try to get funds during a really difficult fiscal time.”  Apparently, his decision to stick with the PARCC test, despite calls from parents and teachers to abandon it, was also based on the procurement of federal funding:

This will in no way affect our efforts to continue effective testing and measurement of our students through the PARCC test. We must continue to review and improve that test based on results, not fear or speculation. I will not permit New Jersey to risk losing vital federal education funds because some would prefer to let the perfect get in the way of the good.

Additionally, during an appearance on Face the Nation, after having expressed his reticence about Common Core, Christie said of his state’s use of the Standards:

. . . I gave it four years to work. I mean, unlike some other folks, who just reflexively dismissed it, I said, all right, let’s give it a chance. Let’s see if it will work. It was originally written by the nation’s governors. Let’s give it a chance. But in four years, John, we did not have educators or parents buy into Common Core…

And the fact is that I thought this was worth giving it a try. And we tried it. And it didn’t work. And so that is part of what government does too, you know. You engage in certain actions which you are hopeful will work when [sic]. And they don’t work, you should change course, not stay stubborn because you’re afraid of somebody asking you a gotcha question.

But Christie wants to keep the Common Core-aligned PARCC assessments, which would effectively dictate keeping the Common Core. In that regard, Seton Hall professor of education Chris Teinken observed, “If the accountability indicators are all pointing to the test aligned to the Common Core, what we think is going to happen in the classroom? What gets tested gets taught.”

As to privacy issues, Christie has been a steadfast supporter of the PARCC assessments, which has severe data-sharing repercussions.

We would look for Christie to lead the effort to replace the Common Core in New Jersey with good standards – not just a “review” leading to a rebrand – and to replace PARCC with an assessment aligned to the new standards. His statement, in a thinly veiled reference to Gov. Perry, that at least he tried Common Core is particularly troublesome.116 It indicates that he does not understand how the federal government interferes with state decision- making, does not appreciate the academic deficiencies of the Common Core, and does not understand why parents are upset.

Christie epitomizes “making a big issue into a small issue.” His website does not address Common Core and does not address his view as to the relationship between USED and the states on education. Does he think it is just fine? Does he think the states need structural protections? Does he want to eliminate USED? Perhaps make it bigger? These are campaign issues, and the people want to know.

Emmett McGroarty is the executive director of APIA Education.