NC commission wants Common Core changes

Andre Peek talks about progress and plans to gather teacher feedback on Common Core standards

Andre Peek, co-chairman of the commission reviewing the Common Core standards for English and math, talks about preliminary recommendations and gathering responses from teachers. Video by Lynn Bonner/
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Andre Peek, co-chairman of the commission reviewing the Common Core standards for English and math, talks about preliminary recommendations and gathering responses from teachers. Video by Lynn Bonner/

A commission reviewing public school educational goals is preparing to present its ideas for extensive changes at regional teacher forums.

The Academic Standards Review Commission met Monday to discuss draft recommendations for changes to Common Core, national standards for English and math that cover kindergarten through 12th grade. The proposals call for a restructuring of high school math, adopting Minnesota standards for kindergarten through 8th grade math, a streamlining of English goals, and making more opportunities for students to write.

The state adopted Common Core in 2010. It is not a curriculum, but a set of detailed goals students should achieve by the end of each grade. Schools are entering their fourth year using the standards, but the goals continue to be a target of criticism. The commission, a group of political appointees, was charged with reviewing the standards and sending their recommendations for changes to the legislature and the State Board of Education by the end of the year.

Two work groups, one for math and one for English/language arts, produced draft reports based on their reviews of other states’ standards, teacher surveys, and analysis by outside researchers. The commission is planning to gather teacher feedback at regional forums. Dates have not been set yet.

High school math courses are “integrated” in that algebra, geometry and other topics are taught together over three years. Integrated math is not required under Common Core, but the commission work group evaluating math recommended the state return to teaching Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II.

“Let’s go back to the old way,” at least temporarily, said John T. Scheick , a retired math professor and commission member.

The reviewers also faulted the math standards for not including deductive reasoning, logic, Roman numerals, the calendar, and other topics. More time needs to be spent on counting money and making change, reading and writing numbers in words, and multiplication and division of long numbers, the report said.

For kindergarten through 8th grades, the math work group recommended adopting Minnesota standards, which it said are “clear and provide examples of what is to be taught.”

The work group for English/language arts said the Common Core standards are vague and require more than can be taught in a year. Recommendations call for revising or rewriting standards to prioritize essential goals that can be mastered in a school year or a semester of high school.

The work group’s preliminary report cited examples where abstract thinking was required of third graders, which the report says they are not developmentally prepared to do. The review also criticized the standards for giving writing instruction short shrift.

“I think we can generally agree that writing is falling to the wayside,” said commission member Katie Lemons, a high school English teacher.

The group compared North Carolina standards to those from Massachusetts adopted in 2001, California and Texas from 2008, and Virginia, which like Texas, did not adopt Common Core.

The group recommends establishing minimum goals for each grade level, and basing reading goals on the abilities of each student rather than on predetermined texts.

The commission must complete its report by the end of the year. The authority to change the standards rests with the State Board of Education.

Commission Co-chairman Andre Peek said the group should include in its recommendations information on the costs to make any changes, “implementation order,” or suggestions for roll-out, and a timetable.

Both work group reports said teachers want textbooks aligned to the standards.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Superintendent Ann B. Clark, a commission member, said the timetable should include enough time for “high quality professional development” and a consideration of how it will be paid for.