Public sounds off on Common Core standards

Posted March 20, 2014

— Members of the public and representatives of think tanks, nonprofits and industry groups sounded off Thursday on North Carolina's adoption of Common Core standards, academic goals the state has adopted for its public school students. 

The standards are not a curriculum. Rather, they lay out what students need to know and be able to do. School districts and classroom teachers still decide how that material is taught. Although the state Department of Public Instruction has adopted the standards, lawmakers are considering reining in their implementation, paying particular attention to costs associated with testing. 

Nationally, the standards have become a point of political controversy. Although some high profile conservatives, such as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, support Common Core, other conservative groups and lawmakers have questioned why the new standards are needed. school, math Q&A: Common Core

The standards were developed by state and nonprofit leaders, and they have been embraced by President Barack Obama's Education Department. 

"First and foremost, it violates our U.S. Constitution," said Lynn Taylor, who identified herself as a private educator who has done research on Common Core standards.

Taylor expressed a common criticism of the standards, which is that they cede control of education to national and international groups.

"It replaces fact-based learning with feelings...For every second we allow these standards to survive, we chip away at students' love of learning," she said.

Parents of schoolchildren, especially those in primary grades, said the Common Core standards are unreasonably demanding. 

Johnston County mother Leslie Mills said she came to speak because she's worried about her children, especially her kindergartner, Elijah. 

"I've looked in depth at the common core standards specifically for my children and they are just not developmentally appropriate at all," Mills said.

"Children and parents across our state are crying," said concerned mother Kellie Crump. "They are frustrated, they're anxious and they're giving up."

Backers of the standards say they ensure students can move from school district to school district and prepare themselves for college and careers.

Mooresville High English teacher Nancy Gardner says education must evolve with technology. She says students these days have facts at their fingertips. "But if they don't know how to critically look at what they're seeing on the Internet, think about what that means, problem solve, then learn to write about that, communicate that, we're not setting them up for success." 

"Higher standards are crucial to achieving the most competent, competitive workforce in the region, the nation and the world," said Gary Salamido, vice president of government affairs at the North Carolina Chamber. "It is critical that we move forward with and build upon these higher standards."

Many business groups back the standards because they say it will equip students with better reasoning skills and the ability to work cooperatively. However, that backing from industry raises suspicions among some opponents.

Some critics suggested that Common Core is a government conspiracy involving the United Nations and the Gates Foundation, which helped to fund the initial development of the standards. 

"This thing is about control," said Raynor James with the Coastal Carolina Taxpayers' Association, a Tea Party group. "Control of our children's education, control of their attitudes, control of our country at a later time.

"Common Core "fits a corporate agenda to teach our children to be slaves of corporations," said Scot Rapp, who identified himself as a teacher, "and when the interest of corporations takes precedence, that's fascism."

Rapp said that Common Core language standards shifted away from well-known novels to graphic novels, instruction manuals and "government propaganda on sustainability, which we know is a lie." 

Other critics suggested that the standards are immoral and negate parents' right to control what their children learn. 

Ramona Timm with the Stokes County Tea Party said she covered illustrations in her daughter's health textbook because they would have offended lawmakers. Holding it up, she said, "If you could see this, you'd know this book from age 10 years old is pornographic." 

Alan Hoyle, a self-described preacher, held up a Bible. "I am holding in my hand the textbook that has made America great," he said. Common Core "is pushing on our students sodomy, abortion, and feminism."   

Other teachers said the standards were good and encountered problems due to a quick roll-out.

"The fast implementation has created some of the negative groundswell that you've heard," said Mark Jewell, vice president of North Carolina Association of Educators. "It's not the standards - it’s the over-assessment and the time taken away from teaching."

Patrick Abele, an employee with Iredell-Statesville Schools and a parent, said Common Core helps students understand a subject beyond rote memorization.

"The standards help us go deeper with learning rather than skimming the surface of a topic or unit," Abele said. "The standards do not tell teachers how to teach. They simply specify to teachers what knowledge and skills their students should have."

Those who spoke against the standards returned to common themes. One parent said Common Core would require students to read books that may be inappropriate for their age. Others decried that the standards de-emphasized memorization of facts, and many said the standards would translate into a "one-size-fits-all" curriculum, often citing the experience of their own children.

"Common Core standards also violate a fundamental principle of our constitution: federalism," said Bob Luebke, with the Civitas Institute.

States, not the federal government or a national nonprofit group, should determine standards for students, Luebke said.

"Common Core centralizes control of educational policy making," he said. 

Teachers such as Karen Collie Dickerson, a Guilford County English teacher and 2013 Teacher of the Year, said Common Core allowed her to dive more deeply into topics with her students, even those who had previously struggled in language arts classes.

"They also promote what I like to call the new three Rs in education: rigor, readiness and relevance," Dickerson said. "This notion of increased rigor does not mean we are dumbing down."

Opponents often say the standards are eliminating material or reducing expectations, but Dickerson said the standards make sure all students understand a certain pool of common material, which they can then build upon.

"We are simply raising the floor or baseline for what they must achieve, so the ceiling can reach limitless heights," Dickerson said.


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  • pittmanc94 Mar 24, 2014

    I don't have a problem with my 1st grader using critical thinking. She has 6 or 7 different ways to solve a problem & every time is do it she get confused. Last year she had 3's on her report card. This year she has gone from 3's to 1's. I have a Degree in Teaching and what I was taught in college is nothing compared to what is being taught in the classroom. Also, if they would offer workshops to parents that would help a lot also. Plus, my daughter Lead Teacher is always in workshops (TA is in between 2 classes)... The Substitute Teacher which is also struggling with teaching this to the children. I JUST THINK CC IS A BAD IDEAL TO TEACH STUDENTS IN K-3 GRADE..

  • Terry Watts Mar 24, 2014
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    Would Godwin's Law apply in this instance???

  • Ashley Moore Mar 23, 2014
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    I can see an elementary teacher having success. You are receiving a blank slate with the kids. But middle school and high school kids? They're not blank. Now they're just confused.

  • Ashley Moore Mar 23, 2014
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    Common Core is good in theory. Communism is good in theory, too.

  • shay334 Mar 21, 2014

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    What do we as teachers have to gain from saying we're in favor of Common Core? Since it's been in place I am up until midnight every night creating new materials and spend my weekends writing new plans. I am only gaining more work from it but I am still in favor of it because it benefits our students and that's why I chose the education field...to help children.

  • whatelseisnew Mar 21, 2014

    Ah so sad. The public education establishment is an abject failure. The traditional excuses were old and tired. Bush provided the no child left behind excuse, That one is now worn out, so we GIVE YOU "common core". In the not too distant future this will become the new item to blame for the ongoing failure of the system. Folks you can NOT teach people to think. You can NOT teach people to be creative. If they have those abilities, you CAN teach them methods to enhance that skill which they already have. Just consider, you know people, either family members or perhaps coworkers or friends that "do not think". They never have and they never will. This whole thing is just another scam to keep sucking money about of our pockets to sustain a system that has been destroyed by Government and the people that are in control of it.

  • Jeff DeWitt Mar 21, 2014
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    Many teachers are a part of state or national teachers organizations that are supporting CC. The Feds are behind this, and it's not governors and teachers that have developed this program, it's the NGA and the education industry that's behind it. Follow the money, there is a LOT of money being spent on those CC ads, the organizations spending that money aren't doing it because they care so much about the children, it's what it always is, about money and power.

  • Terry Watts Mar 21, 2014
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    In practical terms, what does a teacher have to gain by implementing Common Core??? Don't feed us paranoia, give us hard facts...

    And the Fed isn't involved in CC as much as it has adopted the standards. The States, namely the Governors and educators, developed CC, and NC has adopted and implemented them.

  • Jeff DeWitt Mar 21, 2014
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    Interesting that virtually everyone speaking in favor of Common Core are a part of the Educracy... that is teachers, other government and business types with something to gain while those opposed are almost all parents.

    The federal government really has no legitimate business being involved in education. It can't handle it's legitimate responsibilities or even balance its checkbook much less deciding what is best for our children.

  • JCParent Mar 21, 2014

    I have children in the school system in elemtary, middle and high school. They were all straight A students. Since common core implementation, the youngest has floundered. I am a product of NC schools. I was a HS valedictorian, and received a BS from Duke in a hard science. I even have a PhD in a hard science. The reason I give my background is to demonstrate that I have some experience in what I talk about. I can honestly say that the fifth grade math and science curricula are crazy. Not just poorly designed, but actually teaching incorrect methods and causing needless confusion. I agree with other parents who have described very stressful homework environments. The implementation is destructive. I've heard stories about the increase in cheating by students, parents and teachers, just to get through all the garbage that is being required now. I feel sorry for families who aren't able to help their kids on the advanced math and science topics, and language arts material is no better.