LANSING (WWJ/AP) – The Michigan Legislature has given the final go-ahead to resume spending money to implement more rigorous and uniform national education standards.

The Republican-led House approved a resolution earlier this week on a non-recorded board vote.

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Since Oct. 1, the state was unable to spend money to put in place Common Core math and reading standards in K-12 schools because of a provision in the budget pausing the work. The state immediately resumed Common Core-related activities last week, because both the House and Senate had affirmatively acted despite passing different versions of a resolution.

Now both chambers have approved the same measure.

The standards won approval from the state education board with little fanfare three years ago but have since divided Republicans, despite winning broad support in the business and education communities.

“To help all our students succeed, our collective work needs to be focused on having rigorous standards; effective and valuable assessments aligned to those standards; and high quality and effective educators,” Superintendent Mike Flanagan said in a written statement.

The Common Core standards adopted by 45 states demand critical thinking and problem solving that backers say will give students an education that’s competitive with other countries. But critics question the benchmarks and associated tests, calling them a national intrusion into local control of public schools.

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“It’s a national standard that will be increasingly referenced by our federal government as a tool to influence state education policies,” said Sen. Patrick Colbeck, a Republican from Wayne County’s Canton Township.

Like the House, the Senate balked at allowing companion “Smarter Balanced” standardized tests to move forward and instead asked the state to report back by Dec. 1 on testing options. The resolution does not commit Michigan to a specific assessment, but it asks that assessments be given on computers, provide “real-time results” and be taken twice a year.

“We don’t want to be told by some bigger organization what our assessment program looks like,” said Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe.

A criticism of the existing Michigan Education Assessment Program tests and Michigan Merit Exam is that results do not come in time to help individual students. The resolution requires the state to competitively bid for the new tests. The Legislature plans to evaluate and fund assessment options when crafting a new budget next year.

The Common Core standards spell out, grade by grade, the reading and math skills that students should have as they go from kindergarten through high school. The resolution says the standards cannot dictate curriculum and lets local school boards adopt different standards.

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