State Sen. Jerry Tillman: A commission to evaluate Common Core makes good sense for NC

May 2, 2014 

A standards evaluation commission the way to go

In response to your April 27 editorial on Common Core State Standards: I have heard parents and teachers who share many of the same concerns about common core. The standards required teachers to create lessons that were developmentally inappropriate, confusing or both. In math, for example, elementary school children were asked to describe the complete process of solving multi-step word problems, a skill that requires the kind of abstract reasoning and analysis that even the most gifted elementary school students do not possess. The move away from mastery of basic mathematical operations is one reason Republicans supported a proposed bill that requires that students enrolled in public schools memorize multiplication tables. The legislation passed in 2013.

Also in 2013, Republicans approved the formation of a legislative study committee, the Study Committee on Common Core State Standards, that would provide the kind of information and expert opinion of common core that had been largely absent since the implementation following State Board of Education approval in 2010. I served on the committee. We heard hours of testimony from state education officials, education researchers, classroom teachers, administrators, parents and concerned citizens on both sides of the debate. In the end, committee members carefully weighed the pros and cons of common core and decided that it was time to act.

The committee recommended a measured approach. In the end, we agreed with Lt. Gov. Dan Forest and Dr. Terry Stoops of the John Locke Foundation, who suggested that the state should appoint parents, classroom teachers, content-area experts, researchers and other stakeholders to a standards evaluation commission. The members of the commission, tentatively called the Academic Standards Review Commission, would be charged with recommending changes, including outright repeal, of the Common Core State Standards in math and English language arts. All changes would have to be approved by the State Board of Education or the General Assembly.

The goal of the commission is simple – ensuring that North Carolina has the most rigorous, coherent and age-appropriate math and English standards in the nation. Simply rebranding or renaming common core is not an option. Reverting to inferior standards developed by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction is not an option. Adopting inferior standards developed by other states is not an option.

The commission is simply a proposal. The General Assembly must approve the creation of the commission during the upcoming legislative session.

Regrettably, some have accused Republicans of “politicizing” common core. The accusation is ridiculous. The commission chairs went to great lengths to ensure that both proponents and opponents had multiple opportunities to testify and provide input to the commission. Nevertheless, I would rather be accused of politicizing common core than ignoring it, which is precisely what the Democratic-led legislature did when the standards were adopted in 2010.

Above all, I want North Carolina to control its own destiny. Placing standards back in our hands is the right thing to do. That’s where the constitution says education should be.

State Sen. Jerry Tillman, Archdale

The writer, a Republican, represents N.C. Senate District 29. The length limit was waived.

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