Movement against Common Core education standards hits NC

jstancill@newsobserver.com, ablythe@newsobserver.comJune 4, 2013 

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North Carolina Lt. Gov. Dan Forest says he has serious qualms about the state's "rush to implement" the K-12 learning standards known as "Common Core."

TAKAAKI IWABU — tiwabu@newsobserver.com

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    Sources: James B. Hunt Jr. Institute for Educational Policy, Orange County Schools

  • What’s expected of students under Common Core? Mathematics

    • Instead of covering a laundry list of techniques, teachers will focus on fewer, more fundamental areas.

    • Students will be expected to master key concepts and operations and to understand how to apply them in real-life situations.

    • Elementary grades will feature problem solving in addition, subtraction, multiplication, division of whole numbers and fractions.

    • Middle school will focus on ratios and proportional relationships, early expressions and equations, building momentum toward linear algebra in the eighth grade.

    • In high school, students should be able to apply their skill to data, engineering and modeling problems.

    English language arts

    • In elementary school, half of reading should be nonfiction and informational texts. Nonfiction will grow to a 70 percent share by 12th grade.

    • Literacy is developed in other disciplines – history, science and social studies, through reading and analyzing documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Gettysburg Address.

    • Students should be able to dig into texts with the ability to answer questions, analyze information, cite evidence and defend a claim. Students must be able to collaborate respectfully with others on shared projects, to be partners in problem solving and to know how to communicate in both formal and informal settings.

    • Students should master several types of writing – argument, explanation and narrative.

    Sources: James B. Hunt Jr. Institute for Educational Policy, Orange County Schools

A battle against new education standards has been spreading across the nation like a summer wildfire, and it’s now headed to North Carolina.

The K-12 learning standards known as “Common Core” have been adopted by 45 states after being in the works for several years. But recently there has been a growing chorus of tea party and other opponents who say the standards should be dumped. Republican governors in Indiana and Pennsylvania have hit pause buttons, and the state Senate in Michigan approved a budget that would prohibit funding for Common Core implementation.

On Tuesday, North Carolina Lt. Gov. Dan Forest posted a nearly four-minute video on YouTube, titled “My Concerns with Common Core.” In it, he said he has serious qualms about the state’s “rush to implement” the K-12 standard. Common Core was rolled out in North Carolina’s classrooms last fall.

Forest vowed a critical review starting Wednesday during orientation for new members of the State Board of Education, suggesting “perhaps a fresh set of eyes will give us reason to pause, and make sure our state looks, before we leap into the Common Core.”

By virtue of his job, Forest serves on the state education board. He said the standards have not been field tested and implementation costs are unknown. He compared Common Core’s adoption to the FDA “rolling out a new drug with no testing and no idea of side effects and then telling the public to ‘Trust us. Everything should be just fine.’”

The Common Core State Standards are aimed at providing a consistent and rigorous roadmap for what students should learn in math and English language arts from kindergarten through high school. Proponents say the goal is to be able to compare performance from state to state and to ratchet up the difficulty level so that U.S. students can compete better globally.

Common Core in N.C.

The standards were developed in a bipartisan state-led effort by the National Governors Association. They were adopted by North Carolina’s Board of Education in 2010.

State Superintendent June Atkinson said Tuesday that it’s unfortunate that some people want to believe myths about Common Core.

“How can people argue against teaching North Carolina students to read, write, speak and listen?” Atkinson said. “How could that be of the devil? How can that be bad for kids? I am so disappointed people would want to make this a political football. If we stopped implementation of the Common Core – this is the first year – our teachers would be in a tizzy.”

Critics have characterized the Common Core as a federal takeover of state education, but the initiative did not come from the federal government. The U.S. Department of Education’s Race to the Top grant competition did spur many states to reform curriculum and embrace the Common Core.

North Carolina was one of the first states to do so, and it won a $400 million Race to the Top grant in 2010, which was used in part to train teachers for the new standards.

“It’s totally false that the Common Core is a product of the federal government or President (Barack) Obama or (Education) Secretary Arne Duncan,” Atkinson said.

Glenn Beck opposition

Common Core is a relatively new cause célèbre for tea party groups and conservative talk show hosts such as Glenn Beck, who has zeroed in on what he calls “scary” and “insidious” data collection on children through Common Core.

Forest said he is skeptical about the data collection allowed with testing of the standards. “What data will be collected? By whom? Shared with whom? The answers to these questions should have been answered prior to North Carolina agreeing to the implementation of Common Core,” he said.

He also said the standardization is the opposite of what’s needed in today’s classrooms.

“As a believer in local and parental control of education, I am unclear how education with a national, one-size-fits-all standard, will serve our students well and allow our parents the ability to be engaged in educational decisions,” Forest said. “The very premise of Common Core, to somehow standardize learning and test taking, runs counter to the world of mass customization we live in, where, via technology, curriculum and the learning experience can literally be customized to the needs of each individual student.”

Other conservatives are proponents of the standards, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. According to media reports, he told Michigan leaders recently that the Common Core would allow for more innovation and less regulation in classrooms and would boost performance of U.S. students. He implored Michigan policymakers not to pull back from the new standards.

Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education has taken up the cause, poking holes in arguments by critics. Some industries have defended the standards, too. ExxonMobil produced TV commercials touting the value of the Common Core.

‘People are lying’

Atkinson said Common Core opponents aren’t being truthful.

“I just find it distressing that people have chosen to believe people who are actually lying, and I don’t use that word very often,” she said. “But people are lying about saying this is the part of the federal government taking over schools in our state.”

It’s unclear how much Forest’s views are shared by other policymakers in state government. The new board members are Republican appointees.

Kim Genardo, communications director for Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, said he had “not issued any opinion yet on Common Core.”

Stancill: 919-829-4559

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