Two prominent critics of Common Core supported a rewrite of the state’s education goals at a meeting this week of a state commission responsible for recommending new standards in math and reading.
Commission members asked Sandra Stotsky, a retired professor of education reform at the University of Arkansas, and James Milgram, a retired math professor at Stanford University, for advice on rewriting the hundreds of goals in reading and math that cover 13 grades.
Stotsky faulted the Common Core English/language arts standards for being “content free,” meaning they didn’t offer teachers ideas on how to achieve the objectives. Milgram said the instructions for doing simple math were “convoluted.”
North Carolina adopted national Common Core standards for math and English/language arts in 2010, but those education goals have come under scrutiny here and in other states.
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Stotsky and Milgram were members of a national committee asked to sign off on Common Core in 2010. They did not agree to approve it.
The state Academic Standards Review Commission must report its recommendations for changes to the State Board of Education by the end of the year, but after about a half-dozen meetings, it is still figuring out how to go about its work.
“We need to get started,” said Tammy Covil, co-chairwoman of the commission and a New Hanover Board of Education member. “We’re six months in, and we haven’t been able to accomplish a lot.”
The legislature has yet to approve the commission’s $250,000 budget. The Department of Administration is paying for speakers to come to Raleigh until the commission gets its own money.
Commission members are anxious about meeting the reporting deadline.
“We need staff,” said State Board of Education Chairman William Cobey, who is also a member of the commission. “We need staff two to three months ago to do the detailed work of the committees.”
Commission Co-chairman Andre Peek said in an interview that members had discussed going back to the legislature to ask for more time, but he wanted to have a plan that would justify the need for an extension.
The audience for the meeting was full of Common Core opponents who applauded when Stotsky or Milgram delivered pointed criticisms.
Some in the audience groaned when Covil pointed out that another presenter, Kevin Perks, worked for a nonprofit called WestED that received money from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, one of Common Core’s financial backers.
“It seems as if every organization that we try to bring forward has some connection in some shape or form to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation,” Covil said.
Perks, who talked about teachers working together to improve instruction, said he wasn’t there to support Common Core. WestED, a research, development and service agency, receives grants from a variety of sources, Perks said.
One Common Core supporter in the audience, a member of the same national committee as Milgram and Stostky, said the information Milgram provided about math was inaccurate.
Jere Confrey, a professor of mathematics education at N.C. State University, supplied written comments rebutting Milgram’s critique. In an interview, she said the commission needed to hear both perspectives.
The lead writer for the Common Core math standards was invited, Peek said, but could not make it. “Absolutely, we are looking for balance,” he said.