You may have heard that a North Carolina joint legislative committee voted on Thursday to replace Common Core. I was on that committee and voted to approve both the proposed legislation and the report that will now go to the Legislative Research Commission before going to the General Assembly in May.
I have supported the concept of Common Core State Standards (CCSS) since first learning about them in 2011, my first year in the Legislature. However, even then I cautioned the NC Department of Public Instruction (DPI) to educate the General Assembly about the CCSS. I also noted to DPI that I had encountered a great number of teachers that did not know anything about CCSS and were fearful that they were going to be thrust into teaching a curriculum and would be evaluated on a set of standards about which they knew nothing.
The Common Core State Standards were originally designed to be a set of academic standards in math and English to be adopted by individual states that would allow parents, students and teachers to know what were the expected outcomes by grade level and allow everyone to know how they were performing against other students across the state, across the nation and around the world. As a parent, grandparent and businessman, I thought that this was a good idea. Growing up, I changed schools several times; as well, due to my military service and my career moves, my children also changed schools. Each time they (or I) were either ahead or behind in this or that subject because no two schools, let alone no two states, taught to the same set of standards. The only way many of us knew how we were doing in comparison to others was the annual “Iowa Tests.” So, along comes the Common Core State Standards, developed as a result of action by a large number of state governors meeting at a western governors’ conference. The standards were to have been developed by educators from across the nation who were judged to be highly proficient in the areas of math and English. The federal government had no role.
The federal government then took a look at the CCSS and said, “That’s a great idea. Let’s us get behind it.” The federal government has only one way of “getting behind it.” They throw money, lots of money. The feds included participation in CCSS as a requirement of receiving Race to the Top (RttT) funding. That in itself is not bad. But with federal money comes federal intrusion. Whereas the CCSS were only standards and did not dictate curriculum or content or pedagogy, the feds couldn’t help themselves; they had to add testing regimens and course requirements. These testing regimens became high stakes testing, lots of it, and content suggestions, which are not so much “suggestions” when lots of dollars are attached. States starved for funding fell in line with the federal requirements. Teachers and parents across the country became alarmed about the high stakes testing itself as well as the number of tests involved in attaining CCSS and receiving RttT monies.
The NC Legislature appointed a joint study committee to take a look at CCSS and its associated testing and content regimens as well as costs and data-mining intrusion. We heard a large amount of testimony about the tests and about content that was age-inappropriate; some of the reading examples were outrageous. Kids and parents from across the State of North Carolina began writing and calling their Legislators with horror stories about Common Core State Standards and how they were being implemented. We heard from teachers and administrators who told us that the problem was really not with the CCSS, but with the implementation process. Teacher after teacher said the same thing. And parent after parent complained about the number of tests, the high-stakes testing, and the fact that they could not help their children with their homework because they did not understand this “new math or new English” or the reasoning requirements being put upon their children. Teachers and principals complained that they had been insufficiently trained in how to deal with, nor did they fully understand, the Common Core State Standards. All this came on top of new regulations, reading by third grade requirements, and no pay raises.
Testimony received from Dr. Terry Stoops of the John Locke Foundation and by Lt. Gov. Dan Forest acknowledged that our NC Academic Standards were too low and that the Common Core State Standards were higher, but they were not high enough to satisfy the need of North Carolina businesses and North Carolinians. And , the baggage that came with CCSS was unacceptable, detrimental to the students and the teachers, and just plain WRONG! We needed to do better.
It became clear to me that the Common Core State Standards, the testing regimen, and the content had all become inextricably intertwined. In spite of my support for the concept of Common Core Standards, the program, taken as a whole, was not right for North Carolina. It had become impossible to accept the CCSS without accepting the content and curriculum that went with it. DPI disagreed and said that one has nothing to do with the other, but that has, in my opinion, turned out NOT to be true. It was not intended by the governors or by the writers of the CCSS for the standards to dictate curriculum. The CCSS were to be nothing more than minimum, consistent, and common standards for students across the country. States that wanted higher standards could have them; the intent was that the CCSS established a minimum set of standards for all participating states.
So, this Joint Legislative Committee voted to:
1. Have local boards of education, school administrators, teachers and instructional personnel continue to adopt and implement LOCALLY adopted curricula for appropriate instruction of each child
2. Have the State Board of Ed (SBE) and local Boards of Ed (BoE) continue to communicate with parents and stakeholders to increase transparency
3. Have the SBE review, revise and refine the NC Standard Course of Study
4. Establish the Academic Standards Review Commission and charge them with developing new and higher standards for NC schools
5. Direct the SBE and local BoE’s to assess teacher needs and to provide for professional development that will support the teachers in helping every student in NC public schools to achieve a State-determined standard course of study.
The recommendation included draft legislation for the Academic Standards Review Commission.
The report of the committee with its recommendations and the proposed legislation can be viewed Here
Please let me know if any additional information would be helpful.
D. Craig Horn
Representative, District 68
North Carolina General Assembly