The future of Common Core is on shaky ground in NC

The Academic Standards Review Commission, tasked with vetting the national educational standards and recommending changes if necessary, unveiled draft proposals today which highlighted a number of areas North Carolina might go in a different direction.

Concerns include Common Core's curriculum creating a loss of reading enjoyment, a lack of concrete reading goals at every grade level and the absence of a writing component.

In both English and math, the team recommended developmental experts be involved in the crafting of new rules for the Tar Heel State.

A committee that reviewed the English standards says changes will have to include money for conforming textbooks, summer school for students at every grade who need help catching up, and enough teachers and teaching assistants in reasonably sized classrooms.

"Basically, what the committee is doing, and what the work groups have been doing is vet the standards" said Commission Co-Chair Tammy Covil. "This is something that should have been done prior to the adoption of Common Core."

"The state Board of Education and the state Superintendent never ensured that they accomplished what they set out to accomplish," continued Covil. "So we can absolutely make the recommendation to scrap the standards."

That would be just fine with Kim Fink, from the Coastal Carolina Taxpayers Association.

"My biggest thing originally was it's federal overreach. This is states' rights. Education is states' rights."

But long-time Greensboro math teacher Ned McMillan disagrees.

"The curriculum we had before common core was not as rigorous as it needed to be. It was basically too easy for the kids and you could see that in our state test scores, how we compared to other states. So it needed to be upgraded. The challenge was trying to figure out how to teach it," she said.

McMillan says the state has spent four years, heaps of money, and many hours training teachers how to teach within Common Core and worries what it would mean to abandon the new standards mid-implementation.

"Now everything we have resource-wise is going to have to be modified," McMillan said. "Who knows how much that's going to cost?"

Charlotte educator and early childhood development specialist Carole Ardizzone disagrees.

"If we don't understand how the brain works," she said before testifying to the Commission, "how can you expect to teach or come up with standards? If you take the standards apart and look at them, you'll see they're developmentally inappropriate."

McMillan said that means they need tweaking instead of an overhaul.

"What we have essentially is sound and restructuring things that are sound just doesn't make sense."

As for whether brain research should be included in the classroom, McMillan says he's entirely on board but points out it's already happening.

"I think what she doesn't realize and the commission doesn't realize is that teachers are being taught this. We had brain research in Guilford County five years ago. We use that, we consider that in what we're doing, and that affects what we teach."

The Commission's recommendations are only in draft form. You can find them at http://www.doa.nc.gov/asrc/resources.aspx.

The final report is due by the end of 2015.

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