Commentary from Civitas contributor A.P. Dillon.
Over the last few weeks, the Raleigh News and Observer (along with its sister outlet, the Charlotte Observer) has been waging war on the opponents of Common Core and in particular on the Academic Standards Review Commission, the body tasked with reviewing the math and English standards and suggesting modifications to current standards. .
Bear in mind, the commission has been meeting for 14 months. Local media has largely been absent in covering the meetings. The final meeting is this December, when the commission is expected to release its recommendations.
As noted earlier this month by Bob Luebke, the News and Observer (N&O) has been firing off articles and op-eds penned by their editorial board that arguably seek to undermine the commission instead of responding to the many substantive objections opponents have raised. The most recent News and Observer article demonizes work done by the math work group.
The N&O piece begins with anecdotes of frustrated students and parents, which is ironic given that the N&O also featured an article earlier this month in which the Wake County School Board quickly defended Common Core and attacked similar anecdotes about parents and students struggles with the new math procedures.
Then there was the opinion piece the N&O printed from WakeEd Partnership. The piece lashed out at the legislature for creating the commission in the first place. Amazingly, nowhere did the N&O or any other news outlet ask the question, “Why is this commission having to do the work that the Department of Public Instruction should have done?”
Maybe the media hasn’t asked that question because they don’t want to know the answer. Maybe they don’t want to receive the paper blizzard DPI sent the Lieutenant Governor when he asked questions. Maybe they don’t want to find out that DPI did receive feedback, both from CoreStandards.org and from North Carolina teachers, and that feedback mirrors the findings of this commission.
The title alone, “Common Core ignites math war in North Carolina,” is “incendiary.” (Pardon the pun). Let’s look at a few quick quotes from this latest N&O article that reveal more than the author likely intended.
“Separately, Ladnor Geissinger, a retired UNC-Chapel Hill math professor, called the standards commission’s math recommendations ‘a hack job.’”
A “hack job”?
It’s not true. This volunteer commission has been doing some serious due diligence, has heard from experts on both sides, surveyed both parents and teachers and has researched standards from many states. What evidence does the professor provide to support his charge?
Who is Ladnor Geissinger? A random college-level former math professor with zero teaching experience in K-12 who the N&O seems to have plucked out of nowhere to support an attack on the Commission.
A better question for Geissinger would be: Where has he been for the last 14 months of the Commission? Did he apply to be on the commission? What about during the nine months when the General Assembly’s legislative research committee met – where was Geissinger then?
Now here come the “experts” who have been missing in action for the last four years.
“Diane Briars, president of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, criticized the commission’s math review for what she said were its inconsistencies. ‘What they recommend is inconsistent both with best practice and the research evidence – even the reports they cited themselves,’ she said.”
What is Ms. Briars talking about? The Common Core standards have neither “best practice or research evidence” behind it. Truth be told, the Common Core Standards were cobbled together by individuals from testing and publishing companies and education groups. Only one person had any K-12 classroom experience. The group was devoid of any early childhood education professionals.
The N&O article is arguably an attempt to discredit Dr. Ted Scheick, the commission member leading the math team’s work. In two sentences, one can see the paper has picked its target.
“’The News & Observer is harassing us with these public records requests,’ Scheick said. ‘This conversation is over.’ The News & Observer has made three public records requests since July but has received no documents.”
For the record, any requests for commission documents or information should be directed to the commission co-chairs. You have to wonder why the News and Observer is singling out Dr. Scheick.
Co-chair Tammy Covil indicated “requests in July were turned over to the commission’s assistant, Jo Hererra, for fulfilment via the Department of Administration. If the Department of Administration did not follow through and produce the records, perhaps News & Observer should seek clarification from them.”
Covil also said “the News & Observer requested only records dealing with the math group in October. If there were official communications, the Department of Administration would have those emails on their servers.”
If nothing has been turned over yet, why are we only hearing about this with one month until the final reports are due? Why wasn’t this records issue mentioned in Ms. Bonner’s August 2013 article?
I’ve been to nearly all of the Commission’s meetings and have personally only seen someone from the N&O there twice; both times it was Lynn Bonner.
The recent swarm of Common Core articles by the News and Observer reflects a growing sense of panic among Common Core defenders, panic that that the commission might actually be doing the work it was tasked to do.