A battle against new education standards has been spreading across the nation like a summer wildfire, and its 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 states rush to implement the K-12 standard. Common Core was rolled out in North Carolinas 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 Cores 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 Carolinas Board of Education in 2010.
State Superintendent June Atkinson said Tuesday that its 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 Educations 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.
Its 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 whats needed in todays 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.
Bushs 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 arent being truthful.
I just find it distressing that people have chosen to believe people who are actually lying, and I dont 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.
Its unclear how much Forests 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.