Common Core recommendations ready for Friday votes

Parker Thullner works in Dana Snapp's math class at Fuquay-Varina Elementary School. Students there have been using Common Core Math for the past four years.
Parker Thullner works in Dana Snapp's math class at Fuquay-Varina Elementary School. Students there have been using Common Core Math for the past four years.

The state commission reviewing student academic goals in English and math is set to vote Friday on recommendations that include the wholesale rejection of the state’s existing math standards.

The Academic Standards Review Commission was born of the backlash against Common Core, the national standards for English and math instruction that were introduced in classrooms in 2012.

The 11-member commission started work more than a year ago and was required to report its findings to the legislature and the State Board of Education by the end of this month.

The commission’s draft report says more work must be done before big changes are approved. Still, Friday’s meeting is expected to provide an outline of changes that a legislatively established body says the state should make.

The State Board of Education has the ultimate authority to adopt new standards.

“Gathering additional information should precede any steps that call for significant changes in the North Carolina Course of Study, ELA (English Language Arts) and mathematics,” the report says.

In addition to the commission’s recommendations, the State Board will also consider the results of a review by the state Department of Public Instruction, said Board Chairman Bill Cobey, who is also a commission member. The DPI review is its periodic evaluation of state standards, performed on a five-year cycle.

With both reports in hand, the Board would then start the process of considering what revisions to adopt. The board will appoint committees of teachers, and possibly hire a consultant, as part of carrying that out, Cobey said.

“It’s not something that’s going to be done in weeks or months,” he said.

Commission co-chairman Andre Peek said he did not expect substantial changes to the 44-page final draft.

“This is a rubber-meets-the-road kind of meeting,” he said.

Conservative legislators are demanding the state get rid of Common Core, which outlines what English and math skills and knowledge student should have by the end of each grade. Forty-six states adopted the national standards beginning in 2010, but they have been criticized for a variety of reasons. Three states decided last year to drop Common Core.

The commission recommendations for math include replacing Common Core standards in kindergarten through 8th grades with Minnesota’s standards. For high school students, the recommendation is to have schools go back to offering two algebra courses and one geometry course rather than the three integrated math courses that combine those topics.

Parents have asked the commission to get rid of Common Core math, but math teachers and university professors are speaking out in support of the new standards. Common Core seeks to develop a deeper understanding of numbers and demonstrates math’s usefulness, supporters maintain.

The report gives examples of problematic English standards, and offers directions for revising standards for all grades. Included is a recommendation for the state to set a definition of “high quality” that will guide selection of classroom resources, test designs, and professional development goals.

“This definition will also serve as the gold standard for all policy decisions pertaining to standards-based education in North Carolina public schools,” the report says.