The News & Observer
April 24, 2014
Committee Recommends Replacing Common Core with State Education
by Jane Stancill
- A state legislative commission proposed Thursday that North
Carolina drop the Common Core and replace it with a new set
of learning standards for public schools.
draft bill replaces the Common Core State Standards in reading
and math with new education benchmarks to be created by the
State Board of Education, in consultation with a new Academic
Standards Review Commission, made up of political appointees.
The bill is expected to come up in the legislative session that
begins in May.
lawmakers said the bill is not merely a renaming of the standards
but a removal of the Common Core, to be replaced with standards
that "meet North Carolina's needs." If it passes the
legislature, the Common Core could be history by July, though
it likely would have to remain in place until new standards
bill puts education back where the Constitution says it belongs
- in the hands of North Carolina," said Sen. Jerry Tillman,
an Archdale Republican.
Democrats voted against dropping Common Core. Rep. Tricia Cotham,
a Matthews Democrat, called the whole affair "political
theater" that does a disservice to children and teachers.
state has spent several years and millions of dollars to train
teachers and implement the new standards, which hit classrooms
in fall 2012. And while that process has been problematic, Cotham
said, dumping Common Core now "will create classroom chaos."
said a commission of political appointees should not be dictating
North Carolina's classroom standards. "That is scary,"
she said, "because that is politicizing curriculum and
More critical thinking
by 45 states, the Common Core sets out consistent learning standards
in reading and math aimed at better preparation for college
and careers. Developed by the Council of Chief State School
Officers and the National Governors Association, the standards
are fewer but deeper and attempt to promote more critical thinking
and problem solving.
standards caused little controversy when first introduced. Some
of the current opponents originally sponsored bills in North
Carolina that ushered in the standards. For example, Tillman
was a primary sponsor on bills in 2011 and 2012 that called
for teacher preparation and test development related to the
recently, though, a national fight erupted over the Common Core,
with critics suggesting it was a federal overreach because the
U.S. Department of Education offered incentives for states to
adopt the standards in the Race to the Top grant competition.
Critics also confused the standards with curriculum.
Common Core has been a target primarily of the tea party wing
of the Republican Party. But the new standards have also been
criticized by some on the left, who worry about education decisions
being driven by corporate interests, foundations and philanthropists
such as Bill Gates. Some states are moving to abandon or rename
the standards or bow out of consortia that are developing new
the biggest critic in North Carolina has been Republican Lt.
Gov. Dan Forest, who said Thursday was a great day for education
in North Carolina.
General Assembly listened to the voices of thousands of parents,
teachers, administrators and concerned citizens about the issues
with Common Core. ... This legislative action allows North Carolina
to develop its own rigorous standards, created by its own teachers,
school administrators, business leaders and parents," Forest
said in a statement.
of the voices was in the audience Thursday as the commission
voted. "The federal overreach is the biggest problem,"
said Kim Fink, a member of the Coastal Carolina Taxpayers Association
in New Bern. "I do not think there should be national standards
also are supporters all along the political spectrum. One of
the biggest proponents is Republican former Florida Gov. Jeb
Bush. In North Carolina, the Common Core is backed by business
leaders and Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, who has said consistent,
rigorous education standards are key to a competitive business
McCrory is a strong supporter of high standards," Eric
Guckian, McCrory's senior education adviser, said in a statement
Thursday. "He is working every day toward a singular goal,
and that is to ensure that every student and every citizen of
North Carolina, has the skills they need to get and keep a real
world job. High standards and high expectations are the table
stakes for that goal. We welcome the opportunity to improve
upon these standards, but any attempt to lower them is not an
North Carolina Chamber issued a statement saying Thursday's
decision was a step backward "for our manufacturing floors
to the research labs and garages where the next big ideas are
Ebert, president and CEO of the chamber, said, "Speaking
on behalf of job creators, I can say with good authority that
North Carolina's current standards are, in fact, a positive
step toward preparing today's students for the jobs of tomorrow.
Ultimately the decision we are making is whether we want to
grow our talent locally or hire it from out of state. North
Carolina employers would prefer to hire locally."
school Superintendent June Atkinson said North Carolina should
act cautiously before making changes to its standards. "The
stakes - the competitive future of our young people and our
state - are very high," she said in a statement.
said she welcomes regular reviews of standards.
she added, "I believe North Carolina needs to continue
its five-year cycle for maintaining standards so that teachers
have stability in their lesson planning and classroom operations."
this year, superintendents of North Carolina's 10 largest districts,
including Wake County, wrote in a position paper that they wanted
"assurance that North Carolina is committed to CCSS (Common
Core State Standards) and that there will not be another change
in standards for at least seven years."
Ellis, president of the N.C. Association of Educators, said
the arguments about Common Core have been largely based on the
myth that the standards force a one-size-fits-all approach to
teaching or content. He said 77 percent of the association's
members support the standards.
have had some frustrations too, but this does not mean we should
throw everything out and start over," Ellis wrote in an
opinion column circulated to media.
draft legislation presented Thursday would call for the new
standards commission to begin meeting no later than Sept. 1
and finish its work by the end of 2015. The commission would
be made up of 17 members, including the lieutenant governor,
the state superintendent, a Senate and House member and appointees
that can include parents, teachers and curriculum experts. The
governor and State Board of Education would also appoint members.
draft bill says the commission would make recommendations for
changes to standards and tests aligned to them, considering
"the impact on teachers, including the need for professional
development." The panel's recommendations would go to the
State Board of Education for consideration or adoption, but
lawmakers stressed Thursday that the legislature could supersede
any action the State Board undertakes.
amendment approved Thursday would fast track the effort, so
the commission could suggest immediate changes to Common Core
before another set of standards is adopted.
writer Lynn Bonner contributed to this report.
Q&A about the Common Core
What exactly is the Common Core?
set of common standards for K-12 education aimed at providing
a consistent and rigorous road map for what students should
learn in math and English language arts from kindergarten through
high school. Proponents say the goal is to be able to compare
performance from state to state and to ratchet up the difficulty
level so that U.S. students can compete better globally.
does that mean in the classroom?
mathematics, teachers focus on fewer, more fundamental areas
instead of on covering a laundry list of techniques. Students
are expected to master key concepts and operations and to understand
how to apply them in real-life situations. In language arts,
half of reading should be nonfiction and informational texts
in elementary school. Nonfiction will grow to a 70 percent share
by 12th grade. Literacy should be developed in other disciplines
such as history, science and social studies. Students should
also show mastery of several types of writing - argument, explanation
this a federal takeover of the education curriculum?
The Common Core actually was spearheaded by a bipartisan, state-led
effort by the National Governors Association in 2010. The U.S.
Department of Education's Race to the Top grant competition
did spur many states to reform curriculum and embrace the Common
Core. "It's totally false that the Common Core is a product
of the federal government or President Obama," North Carolina
Superintendent June Atkinson told The News & Observer last
why are some conservatives opposed to it?
the past year, the Common Core has become a target of tea party
groups and conservative talk show hosts such as Glenn Beck.
He has focused on what he calls "scary" and "insidious"
data collection of scores and other information from children.
"They now have control of your children," he warned
his radio listeners. Others, such as GOP senators Ted Cruz and
Rand Paul call the Common Core an overreach by federal education
everyone on the left like it?
necessarily. Some are wary of school reforms that focus on standardization.
Others worry about the corporate interests, such as Bill Gates,
who played a part in creating the Common Core.
all Republicans opposed to the Common Core?
not necessarily. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, in particular,
has staunchly defended the Common Core. So has New Jersey Gov.
many states are using the Common Core?
plus the District of Columbia signed on. But Indiana has now
opted out, and the governors of Wisconsin and Louisiana are
considering ways around it.
about North Carolina?
was one of the first states to sign on to the Common Core, and
it won a $400 million Race to the Top grant in 2010. That was
used in part to train teachers for the new standards.
teachers had special training for this?
teachers have attended summer training sessions leading up to
the introduction of the standards last school year.
did it actually show up in North Carolina classrooms?
2012, so we're coming up on the end of the second year.
do teachers, parents and students think?
most teachers seem to support the standards themselves, some
have complained that their training was inadequate and the implementation
was bumpy. Parents have been confused by the standards, in many
cases, and have been concerned about the difficulty, especially
in math. Some have complained that there is too little emphasis
on literature as opposed to nonfiction texts.