By A.P. Dillon
Today is the final meeting of the Academic Standards Review Commission (ASRC). The ASRC was tasked by General Assembly Senate Bill 812 with investigating Common Core and providing recommendations for replacing the controversial standards.
After fifteen months of work, the ASRC is in the process of finalizing their reports and submitting them to the State Board of Education and General Assembly. Their work has been thorough and has included surveys, examination of other standards in other states, testimony from experts and testimony from parents.
Today, Friday, December 18th, will be their last formal meeting as their work winds down. Having attended nearly all the meetings in person myself, I can say that this commission has has done some significant due diligence. The question now is, will the State Board of Education act on the commission’s findings?
One would hope so, given that this commission’s findings mirror that which the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction was aware of years ago, yet failed to act on. This commission’s findings also seem to be mirroring a process just now starting in New York.
In particular, the NC ASRC’s findings regarding the age and developmental inappropriateness of the early elementary standards, transparency and one-size-fits-all nature of the standards seem to be of concern in New York as well, according to a preliminary report issued by the New York Common Core Task Force.
Their report says that New York needs to overhaul Common Core and develop “new, high quality, locally-driven New York State-specific designed standards.” Sounds like New York is following North Carolina’s lead. In fact, North Carolina is mentioned in the report.
The NY Task Force’s report includes twenty-one recommendations (see p.8-9) for action based on the key findings of the report:
- The State’s original process to adopt the more than 1,500 Common Core Standards failed to include meaningful input by educators and was not done in a sufficiently open and transparent manner.
- The Common Core Standards may not be age-appropriate in early grades including K-2.
- The Common Core Standards do not adequately address unique student populations, such as English Language Learners and Students with Disabilities.
- The Standards are too rigid and need to be adaptable with more local school district and educator input.
- There was not enough time for teachers to develop curriculum aligned to the Common Core because much of the sample curriculum resources were not available until after the Common Core Standards were already adopted in schools.
- The State-provided curriculum created by the State Education Department (SED) is complicated and difficult to use.
- There is widespread belief that the curriculum does not allow for local district input, lacks breadth, and is too one-size-fits-all.
- There was a lack of State Education Department (SED) transparency and of parent, educator, and other stakeholder engagement in the development of the Common Core-aligned tests by the corporation hired by SED. • There are concerns that students are spending too much time preparing for and taking tests and that teachers were only “teaching to the test.”
- The Common Core tests do not properly account for Students with Disabilities and create unnecessary duplicative testing for English Language Learners
This report comes after the completion of a listening tour conducted across the state. At every stop of the tour, the majority of parents, teachers and students who showed up demanded the removal of Common Core.
For some perspective, the New York Task Force is hardly made up of ‘anti-Common Core’ people. Some of the bigger names in Common Core supporters are on the list, including Nancy Zimpher, Chancellor of the State University of New York. Just last year, Zimpher created a ‘higher ed pro-common core coalition’ called “Higher Ed For Higher Standards” with the express aim of defending the standards.
Also involved in this Task Force is Mary Ellen Elia, the new Education Commissioner for New York. Elia hails from Florida and had been an ardent Common Core and testing defender. Elia came to New York under unusual circumstances, as she was terminated from her post when several children died on her watch.
These preliminary key findings underscore what the ASRC in North Carolina has concluded as well.
The State Board of Education has a chance to make real change and should be urged to take the ASRC’s findings seriously. North Carolina should lead in education and can safeguard the future of our children by doing so.
The State Board of Education should also bear in mind what the author of Senate Bill 812, Senator Jerry Tillman, said at the very first meeting of the ASRC:
“The legislature, in my opinion, will not take something that is just a rehash.”
The final meeting is today and will be held on the 7th floor of the Department of Education Building at 301 N. Wilmington Street in Raleigh. The meeting begins at 1pm. The public is encouraged to attend.
A.P. Dillon is a contributing writer.