ROCKINGHAM — In the question of whether to repeal or reform Common Core curriculum standards, state Rep. Ken Goodman says the right answer is none of the above.
Three active bills seek to repeal or reform the Common Core state standards for public school curriculum in North Carolina. Goodman, D-Richmond, said none of them should pass because it’s premature to give up on the set of educational benchmarks used in 42 other states.
“The state has spent close to $100 million to implement these Common Core standards and provide training to the teachers,” he said. “We’re two years into the program. It seems to me that it’s too soon to pull the plug.”
Last month, the state House and Senate passed competing versions of a bill to do away with Common Core and appoint a state academic standards review commission that would craft new guidelines. Both chambers would have to sign off on a single version before a Common Core repeal advances to Gov. Pat McCrory’s desk.
The Senate added a third bill to the mix last week when it passed a compromise measure that would replace Common Core but allow the state commission to use the national standards as a framework for North Carolina’s new benchmarks. Sen. Gene McLaurin, D-Richmond, crossed party lines to support the bill, which passed on a Republican-led 33-12 vote.
Goodman said accepted standards call for five years of data before the state can meaningfully evaluate a set of school curriculum guidelines. The three bills in play would replace or change Common Core after just two.
“Two years is too soon to make an assessment that is valid,” Goodman said. “We’ve got the money invested. My view is to continue and see where it takes us. I don’t see any imperative to change it now.”
State Rep. Garland Pierce, D-Wagram, agreed that the state should give Common Core more time to work, and that changing it now would be unfair to students and educators.
“Most of the educators and superintendents I’ve talked to are not really on the side of changing it,” said Pierce. “They’ve gotten used to it and staff have invested millions of dollars in this process. We don’t need to keep taking our educators through hoops with everything else our teachers and students are facing.”
Goodman echoed concerns that a Buncombe County Schools reading specialist raised in an email to state House members discouraging them from jumping ship on Common Core.
“Why would we change the standards after only two years?” wrote Karen Joslin of Haw Creek Elementary School in Asheville. “We are making progress. Give the standards a chance to get rooted. Research shows that it takes five years for any program to show effectiveness. When we changed absolutely everything two years ago, it was extremely difficult on elementary teachers. Please don’t do that again.”
Governors and educational leaders from 48 states, two U.S. territories and the District of Columbia met in 2009 to develop the Common Core standards, which have since been adopted in 45 states. The guidelines have been a flashpoint for conservative criticism, with some fearing more federal control over state-run school systems.
Some students and parents joined the skeptics when schools in several states introduced new ways of teaching math that rely on number lines and multi-step processes to solve simple arithmetic problems. Proponents say the methods teach higher-order thinking skills, but widespread confusion has bolstered support to do away with Common Core.
Goodman pointed out that the Common Core standards don’t require specific curriculum. Schools can tweak homework assignments and lesson plans without an educational edict from Raleigh.
“I have heard some concerns about the math standards because the parents are having trouble, but on the other hand, I have heard teachers say these standards are different, but the reason for them is that they teach critical thinking,” he said. “If the math standards need some work, you can do that within Common Core.”
South Carolina and Oklahoma have backed out of Common Core in recent months, and Goodman worries about the effect on North Carolina’s school systems and teachers if the Tar Heel State follows suit.
“Teachers have invested a lot of time and effort into this change,” Goodman said, “and change is always hard. We’re two years in, and all of a sudden, they’re being told they might have to do something different next year. It’s demoralizing.”
Goodman said Senate Bill 812, the compromise measure that would allow educators to keep parts of Common Core in place, works better in theory than in practice. Politics, he believes, would gut the national school standards beyond recognition.
Current plans call for the state Senate leader to appoint four members of the standards commission. The House speaker would add four more names, the governor would choose one and the state Department of Instruction would pick the remaining two. Goodman said a supermajority of commissioners would be Republican political appointees.
“Eight out of 11 members are probably going to be anti-Common Core,” Goodman said, “so I don’t see how Common Core as we know it can survive.”
Corey Friedman works for Civitas Media as editor of The Richmond County Daily Journal. Reach him at 910-817-2670 or on Twitter @RCDailyJournal.
Mary Katherine Murphy contributed to this report. Reach her at 910-276-2311, ext. 17, or on Twitter @emkaylbg.