State school board OKs new standards for reading, math

Posted June 3, 2010 12:54 p.m. EDT
Updated June 3, 2010 8:10 p.m. EDT

— The state Board of Education on Thursday unanimously approved new universal standards for reading and math classes in public schools, becoming the fifth state in the nation to do so.

North Carolina is part of a 48-state consortium that is working toward developing and adopting the "Common Core" standards for grades K-12 to help improve analytical thinking.

The nationwide goal is to build a stronger education system, where students, regardless of where they live, receive the same quality of education.

"We can have greater assurance that our students are college- and career-ready and that they are able to compete and collaborate with anyone in the world," state school Superintendent June Atkinson said.

Participating in a discussion with Gov. Bev Perdue in Durham on federal funding to save teaching jobs, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Thursday that school curricula have become watered down, partly because of politics, and have not been fair for children.

The new standards, he said, will focus on critical-thinking skills and not "just filling in the blanks."

"We've been dumbing down standards," he said. "While that works, politically, short-term, it doesn't help children. It doesn't help the economy."

State Board of Education Chairman Bill Harrison said that the state plans to adopt more national standards within the next two years.

Under the changes, which will take effect in 2012, he said parents and students would see more "rigorous" testing standards, as well as an "authentic" way of learning, with a curriculum that deals with real-world problems.

"One of the big changes we hope to see is that youngsters will see a bigger connection between the stuff they are learning in school and the stuff they experience outside," Harrison said.

Educators who have seen the new curriculum standards say they are not too different from the state's current standards.

Kristy Moore, with the Durham chapter of the North Carolina Association of Educators, said the new ones compress state standards to make them more user-friendly and better to work with.

"From the state level of our association, we had voices on the State Board of Education, and from what we have seen, there really are no concerns at this time," Moore said.

Superior Court Judge Howard Manning, who has long overseen academic performance in the state's public schools, called the new standards "wonderful."

"The national standard is something that just makes nothing but good sense," he said. "The children in California and the children in North Carolina are going to be learning the same thing."