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By Keely Herring June 24, 2015

Chris Christie says parent and teacher complaints prompted change on Common Core

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s recent changes to the state’s education policy don’t exactly quell rumors that he plans to enter the 2016 GOP presidential field.

On May 28, Christie announced the end of the existing Common Core standards in New Jersey.

"It's now been five years since Common Core was adopted. And the truth is that it's simply not working," he said. "Instead of solving problems in our classrooms, it is creating new ones."

This is not the first time critics have accused Christie of flip-flopping on Common Core -- the state-based educational standards aimed at improving students readiness for college and workplace. (Read our past fact-checks of claims and flops relating to Common Core.)

Christie’s decision to nix Common Core is not unexpected, but it is notable considering his initial stance in support of the standards. "This is one of those areas where I’ve agreed more with the the president than not," Christie said in 2011, a year after he implemented them in New Jersey.

With an upcoming presidential campaign seeming increasingly likely, we decided to check how Christie’s position on Common Core registers on our Flip-O-Meter. It is important to note that we are not passing judgment on decisions to change positions. Rather, we are just determining whether they did.

Christie in support of Common Core

Common Core was set into motion in June 2009 as a collaboration between 49 states and territories. Christie signed off on the standards, and New Jersey adopted them in 2010.

In September 2011, the Christie administration and New Jersey acting Education Commissioner Chris Cerf worked to implement the standards. Christie praised Common Core standards as "a building block in our state’s education system meant to ensure that teachers and districts can innovate within a framework of high expectations and accountability."

Common Core Standards were set to be implemented over a three-year period, and the state Department of Education offered 300 presentations within the first year to provide educators with information about the new initiative.

In August 2013, Christie maintained a positive view of the standards. "We’re doing Common Core in New Jersey and are going to continue," he said. He attributed majority Republican opposition to the standards as a "knee-jerk reaction … that if the president likes something, the Republicans in Congress don’t."

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Christie in opposition to Common Core

Christie’s 180-degree turn on Common Core occurred in slow-motion.

In December 2014 he said in an NJTV interview, "I have real concerns about the Common Core."

Then in February 2015, he expressed "grave concerns about the way this has been done, especially the way the (Obama) administration has tried to implement it through tying federal funding to these things." Christie stated publicly that Common Core was "in the midst of re-examination" in New Jersey.

We’ve fact-checked several claims that Common Core is a federal program or mandate. It’s not. Rather, Christie is referring to the Obama administration using the promise of federal funding to incentivize adoption of Common Core standards. But, despite improving the state’s chances of winning federal money if they adopt educational standards, Common Core itself remains a state-based, voluntary program.

Nonetheless, on May 28, 2015, Christie made the full switch, saying the standards have "brought confusion and frustration to parents. I’ve heard it every day. It’s brought distance between our teachers and the communities where they work, and instead of solving problems in our classrooms, it is creating morale problems in those classrooms and at home."

Christie’s spokesperson pointed to a document released prior to the governor’s speech on May 28, 2015. The document outlines various efforts Christie made throughout 2014 to canvass the state’s educators and parents about their experiences with Common Core after its three-year implementation that began in 2011.  

In July 2014 he established a study commission to review, among other student assessments, Common Core. Then, in November 2014, Christie announced that he was in the midst of evaluating the Core’s effectiveness.

Christie attributed his change of heart in May 2015 to the negative feedback he received from the aforementioned study commission and educators’ reviews. In an interview on June 7 on CBS’s Face the Nation, Christie said, "I’m changing because I gave it four years to work … but in four years, we did not have educators or parents buy into the Common Core."

However, there is one element of the standard’s implementation he’s not phasing out: PARCC testing. Christie has said PARCC testing will continue, and those tests were developed in line with Common Core standards.

"PARCC is a set of assessments meant to test progressions to the standards," stated Ashley Jochim, who studies Common Core at the Center for Reinventing Public Education. She added, "the tests have been developed separately but are meant to align with the Common Core."  

Our ruling

Christie was a supporter of Common Core, but five years following its implementation he has become a critic. He attributes his changed stance to negative reviews from educators and parents within the state. We rate his change of position a Full Flop.

Our Sources

Gov. Chris Christie on Common Core: It’s Time for Higher Standards That Come From Our Communities, May 28, 2015, Timeline: Chris Christie’s evolution on Common Core, May, 28, 2015

Washington PostGov. Chris Christie’s curious plan to dump the Common Core- but keep the Core test, June 10, 2015

Washington Post, Chris Christie Finalizes his slow-motion flip-flop on Common Core, May 28, 2015

The Brookings Institute, "The evolving politics of the Common Core," May 2015

CBS, Face The Nation, June 7

The Star-Ledger, "Christie to tout education standards in school visit Governor focused on issue throughout the fall, September 14, 2011 (accessed via Nexis)

States News Service, Christie Administration Takes Action to Implement Building Block of High Academic Standards in New Jersey Schools, September 13, 2011 (accessed via Nexis)

State of New Jersey Office of the Governor, Governor Christie Established Study Commission to Review the Effectiveness of All K-12 Student Assessments, July 14, 2014

PolitiFact, Bobby Jindal’s change of the position on the Common Core, June 8, 2015

National Governor’s Association, Forty-Nine States and Territories Join Common Core Standards Initiative, June 1, 2009

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More by Keely Herring

Chris Christie says parent and teacher complaints prompted change on Common Core

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