House, Senate take bites from Common Core apple

Posted June 4, 2014

— The House voted Wednesday to repeal and replace the Common Core academic standards in North Carolina schools, and a Senate committee advanced its own legislation advocating repeal.

Common Core standards for math and English were developed by state and nonprofit leaders, and they have been embraced by President Barack Obama's Education Department and adopted by 44 states. In North Carolina, the standards are backed by the North Carolina Chamber, the state's largest business group.

The standards are not a curriculum, but they do set out what students need to know and be able to do in order to graduate from high schools. School districts and classroom teachers still decide how that material is taught.

"A lot of work and energy and time were invested in something we should have never gotten into to start with," said Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph. "We ought to own our standards, and this will put them in our hands."

Before the House voted 78-39 in favor of the repeal action, Democrats questioned the lack of funding for the proposed Academic Standards Review Commission, which would be charged with reviewing existing math and English standards nationwide and recommending to the State Board of Education a package tailored to fit North Carolina's needs.

Rep. Marcus Brandon, D-Guilford, said North Carolina can barely afford to pay teachers, let alone overhaul its academic standards.

"We're walking around like we're big, bad North Carolina that has done this better than anyone else. Quite the contrary," Brandon said. "Now, we're going to say we're going to provide all the professional development, we're going to provide all the curriculum, we're going to provide all these things ... because we're big, bas North Carolina and (President) Obama can't tell us what to do. This is not smart policy."

Rep. Michael Speciale, R-Craven, responded that the state only got into Common Core "for a big check" and now needs to reclaim its public schools.

North Carolina accepted $400 million in federal Race to the Top grants tied to implementing Common Core. The proposals are trying to work around the prospect of the state having to refund that money.

"We sold our kids' education, we sold their futures for $400 million," Speciale said. "We are not in a position to be experimenting with their futures."

Common Core supporters say the standards ensure students can move from one school district to another and prepare themselves for college and careers, and business groups say the standards will equip students with better reasoning skills and the ability to work cooperatively.

But the standards have come under fire nationally, mostly from political conservatives who criticize the measures as a federal takeover of education.

Kim Fink of the Coastal Carolina Taxpayers Association told the Senate Education Committee that Common Core goes beyond mere guidelines to include specific tasks for teachers and students.

"We're ceding control of our education system to the chamber of commerce and the big business entities," Fink said. "We need to keep North Carolina North Carolina and forget what the big businesses say. These are our children."

Mark Jewell, vice president of the North Carolina Association of Educators, urged senators to keep Common Core in place, noting teachers have adapted their teaching styles in recent years and are seeing success with the national standards in the classroom.

school, math Q&A: Common Core

"To embrace strong standards is critical, and supporting teachers who implement these standards are key to North Carolina's economic success," Jewell said.

Tillman said he never set out to repeal Common Core, saying he thought the program would be good for the state's students. In discussing the standards with parents and teachers, however, the former school administrator said he determined Common Core was flawed. He said the math standards aren't rigorous enough, for example, and the program is "off target" in early grades.

"I spent 40 years trying to raise (standards) in school systems and in schools," he said. "I never, ever wanted to lower standards. I wanted to increase them. I still do."

Sen. Josh Stein, D-Wake, called the repeal legislation "totally unnecessary," noting the State Board of Education will soon conduct its routine five-year review of academic standards and could adjust Common Core as needed then.

"Teachers are under so much duress and stress right now. Why are we creating a whole layer of uncertainty in our public schools?" Stein said.

Sen. Malcolm Graham, D-Mecklenburg, said scrapping Common Core appears to be a knee-jerk reaction to isolated complaints and will prevent consistency in schools.

Tillman bristled at the suggestion he would legislate based on a few phone calls, and Sen. Bill Cook, R-Beaufort, said complaints over Common Core are more widespread than Graham believes.

"A lot of folks out there are really displeased with it," Cook said.

The primary difference between the House and Senate bills is that the Senate measure gives lawmakers more control over appointments to the 17-member Academic Standards Review Commission. But another important difference in philosophy surfaced in legislative debates.

Rep. Bryan Holloway, R-Stokes, said the commission wouldn't include Common Core standards in its review, while Tillman left the door open as to whether some of the repealed program might make its way back into state classrooms.

"Nothing's out, nothing's in. It's ours and not theirs, that's the main thing," Tillman said, adding later that he doubted Common Core would return in its entirety.

Gov. Pat McCrory has expressed concern about the repeal effort, saying that he believes much of the concern over the program is wrapped up in testing rather than the national standards themselves.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson was more blunt in her criticism of the legislation, saying Common Core can be revised over time without putting teachers and students in the center of an ideological fight.

"To make our teachers go back to the drawing board would be another example of piling on unnecessarily more work and more frustration," Atkinson said.


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  • Grand Union Jun 5, 2014

    View quoted thread

    The whole opposition from Republicans started after Obama said he approved of it.
    The Common core was created by States, many of whom had Republican administrations. The only real Federal intervention was offering extra money to states that picked it up. NC (under the GOP) took that money..........

    Yes some parents don't like their little darlings being tested but without tests there would be know way to know if a school is doing its job or that a kid needs more help with a subject. My kids never had problems with any of the standard tests, if anything they were way too easy.

  • Terry Watts Jun 5, 2014
    user avatar

    "Common Core" is a Weapon of Mass Distraction.

    The whole point of this entire effort by the GOP is to take away control of Public Instruction away from the DPI (and the elected Supervisor) and give it to Political Appointees of the General Assembly.

  • hforbes482 Jun 5, 2014

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    Yes they can use the restroom...but other than that they get a 3 minute break every hour w/ no talking and little movement. At our elem. school the children had silent lunch and NO recess. For some children (middle school) they had 3 hours of regular testing and then another hour if the whole class was not finished. By my math that comes to over 4 hours of sitting quietly. (6 minutes of limited movement during breaks and the time it took sitting for tests to be handed our, instructions read, pencils and scrap paper handed out came to another 45 minutes which by my math is 4:45 of just sitting)
    All so our state leaders can "beat their chests". Children are terrified, sick to their stomachs and more than you think have complete anxiety attacks starting the day before the tests. Not worth it in my opinion.

  • lilloan Jun 5, 2014

    Terrible news. I am a registrar for a public university and we audit the curriculum for school districts across the country. Ultimately, changes to curriculum directly affect the marketability of diploma awardees in that it becomes more difficult to scale those individuals with those applicants from districts with a stable, well-defined curriculum. This will eventually make graduating North Carolina high school seniors less competitive for university degree program admissions across the country.

  • Carl Keehn Jun 5, 2014
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    Nope the standards are the standards. The curriculum is how you achieve the standards.

  • ChEPhD Jun 5, 2014

    There is no way that there is enough data at this point to determine Common Core's effect, good or bad. Relying on anecdotal evidence to make a hasty decision is exactly what a good education teaches you not to do.

  • iopsyc Jun 5, 2014

    View quoted thread

    It's not clear what test you are referring to but, if necessary, students may use the restroom during EOG testing.

  • tjromano Jun 5, 2014

    My daughter flunked 1st grade and had to take it over because of common core and now you are telling me that you think it was a bad idea!!! My daughter finished kindergarten at the top of her class with no worries. They implemented common core at the beginning of 1st grade and my first teacher’s conference was to discuss the common core requirements and how my child is not meeting them!! We worked all year, three hours a day, to try and bring up her reading comprehension so she could pass but the standards were so high that she could not pass 1st grade. My other children told me “Mom we did not learn this until 3rd or 4th grade!” So basically now you are telling me that my daughter flunked and will be a year behind for the rest of her school experience because you now realize that it should not have been implemented!! And the kicker is: “North Carolina accepted $400 million in federal Race to the Top grants tied to implementing Common Core.” Ok let’s look at this fr

  • btammybullard Jun 4, 2014

    I am a teacher and I am sooo sick of this state's legislation. Ask a NC representative how many times they have VISITED a teacher's classroom. And when I mean VISIT, I mean sit for a while and watch all that we have to deal with. It is not just about Common Core. It is about everything else that goes with teaching. I worked hard this year to teach the Common Core standards. I have studied them and I have written the Common Core documents/resources for my county. I have been working with common Core three years before implementation and I know the standards. They are rigorous and they move students to collaborate and work together. They are good for our students. Repealing it is just another expensive ploy to say there is NO money for teacher raises. Go figure..... I guarantee teachers and teacher relatives will be VOTING out these republicans at the next election. Get ready legislatures... you are definitely gonna lose your tenture !!!!!

  • Mary Boehm Jun 4, 2014
    user avatar

    It is a shame to make third grade kids sit very quietly for three hours and take a test. Kids can't go to the restroom or get water during this time. As adults could you sit for three hours and take a test without moving, looking around the room sometimes or just stopping to think. Kids should not have to sit so long.