State News

State panel doesn't scrap Common Core as expected

Posted December 18, 2015 4:42 a.m. EST
Updated December 19, 2015 9:33 a.m. EST

— A commission that spent more than a year reviewing the Common Core standards for North Carolina's public school students stunned many people Friday when it didn't recommend scrapping the way math is taught.

Forty-four states, including North Carolina, several years ago adopted the academic standards developed by school officers from around the country and the National Governors Association. But implementation of the standards in 2012-13 angered some North Carolina parents, who said they were unclear, repetitive and developmentally inappropriate in several areas.

Critics pressed state lawmakers to repeal Common Core, but the General Assembly instead created the Academic Standards Review Commission last year to find the most appropriate academic standards for North Carolina students. Other states have likewise decided to rewrite the standards in favor of their own academic outlines.

After more than a year of study, the commission on Friday approved general revisions to Common Core in English, urging more curriculum focus and clarity, improved alignment of standards, instruction and testing, and better management of instructional time.

But, key math changes, including adopting Minnesota's K-8 curriculum and returning to the traditional high school sequence of Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II, failed.

"I think it was the responsibility of this commission to be a little more specific about what we were recommending," commission co-chair Tammy Covil said, adding that she feels the panel fell short of its mandate.

The decisions set off Common Core opponents.

"A lot of what just happened has got me boggled," said Kim Fink, chairwoman of the Common Core committee of the Coastal Carolina Taxpayers Association. "I'm incredulous they didn't vote on it – incredulous, disappointed, frustrated, angry."

Meanwhile, some teachers and parents who support Common Core celebrated.

"We do feel like we've won because they didn't vote on the math," said Amanda Garrison, a Burke County teacher. "We need to go back to the board and see what's going on."

The commission's recommendations will go to the State Board of Education, which has final authority to come up with specific Common Core changes.

"There's is work that needs to be done," commission co-chair Andre Peek said. "Those standards need to be revised."

The commission also issued a report that found parents and teachers alike are complaining about the lack of textbooks in schools.

"This deficiency has forced teachers to search for lesson plan material on the Internet, which can be time consuming, and often teachers do not have the resources to share the materials they find," said the panel. "This finding defeats the promise that all North Carolina students have equal opportunity to receive a quality education."

State spending on textbooks has dropped from $68 per student before the recession in 2008-09 to about $15 per student in 2014-15, according to the state Department of Public Instruction. Lawmakers have sought to move away from printed textbooks to digital learning methods. This summer, they nearly doubled spending on textbooks and digital resources by allocating an additional $53 million over two years.