Two months after the Academic Standards Review Commission issued its final report, the fate of Common Core in North Carolina is far from settled.
The State Board of Education will discuss the report’s findings next month.
Some legislative leaders contend that if the State Board doesn’t move to end Common Core Standards, the General Assembly will.
By A.P. Dillon
The controversy over the Common Core State Standards in North Carolina began over four years ago but the fate of the standards is still undecided.
The Academic Standards Review Commission tasked with reviewing the standards and suggesting a replacement met for 15 months. Their final meeting was in December 2015, when the majority of the commission turned on one of their own members over the math recommendations.
The attacks on the math recommendations were so bizarre that it left journalists watching the meeting scratching their heads and spurred Co-Chair Tammy Covil to break ranks by penning a dissenting opinion letter.
What resulted was arguably a watered-down restating of the task set forth for the commission by the legislature in Senate Bill 812.
Two months after the Academic Standards Review Commission held their final meeting and presented their reports, the State Board of Education has yet to take up the recommendations produced. However, that might change next month.
The sub-committee of the State Board of Education handling the recommendations is made up of two members, Eric Davis and Dr. Olivia Oxendine. Dr. Oxendine was also a member of the Academic Standards Review Commission. Oxendine’s involvement raises the question of whether or not she is too close to the issue to be impartial, given that she joined in on the attacks on the math group’s recommendations.
According to Sen. Jerry Tillman, State Superintendent June Atkinson told him the State Board of Education would be discussing the recommendations at the board’s March 2-3 meetings. Tillman’s bill, Senate Bill 812, authorized the Academic Standards Review Commission.
“June [Atkinson] told me that they were going to act on that in March. As soon as they act, I’ll be very anxious to see just what they do,” Tillman said.
In his conversation with me about the status of the recommendations, Tillman said that if the State Board doesn’t act to get rid of Common Core, the legislature would.
“I think they will make some changes for the sake of saying they did something,” Tillman said, referring to the Board of Education.
“If it’s just a revamp, if we don’t get away from Common Core – the legislation I wrote says we’re out of Common Core. If they don’t, we’re simply going to go back [and] get a bill done,” the senator said. He suggested it might be “a simpler, standalone bill that says we’ll do our own standards or you will adopt what the [Commission] draft report has said. We’re going to change the scene, especially in math.”
Tillman also indicated he didn’t have a lot of trust in the State Board at this point but would wait and see what happened. “I don’t know what it will take, but I’m going to wait until the State Board acts. I don’t have much confidence in them, to be honest with you,” he said.
On the House side of the legislature, Rep. Larry Pittman also produced a bill (House Bill 1061) that called for a commission to review the standards.
Rep. Pittman had been a fairly constant fixture at the commission’s meetings, so I caught up with him to see what his take was on the current status of the commission’s recommendations.
“As I attended the meetings of the Academic Standards Review Commission (ASRC), I thought I saw progress being made toward actually getting a report from them against Common Core. They seemed to be doing honest research and discovering for themselves how outrageously foolish Common Core is,” Pittman said.
Pittman continued, “Tammy Covil and Dr. Ted Scheick did a valiant job of presenting the major idiocy of using Common Core. I had begun to hope the ASRC would actually deliver a report that would support moving us away from it.
“Unfortunately, in the end, the final report on the English Language Arts portion was one which could lead either way, toward actually adopting something better than Common Core or toward simply rebranding Common Core with some minor improvements,” he said.
On the topic of what action the State Board of Education might take, and if their decision was being influenced by outside parties, Pittman said, “I can not confirm it, but I have heard that Dr. Atkinson intends to ignore the ASRC’s recommendations, at least as far as they might be negative toward Common Core. That is what I would expect from her, anyway, as she has a vested interest in the issue.”
Pittman also is taking a wait-and-see approach, but made clear that he would act if the State Board did not take steps to move North Carolina away from Common Core.
“I will have to see what kind of proposals may come from any other committee that might discuss it, and be ready to offer amendments that would move us away from Common Core. If this can’t be done this year, then I will have to seek to introduce new legislation next year, if reelected, to do so,” he said.
The message here is clear – citizens and parents engaged on the issue of Common Core will have to wait alongside Tillman and Pittman until the State Board of Education takes up the recommendations.
What is also clear is that regardless of the State Board of Education’s decision, members of the General Assembly do not intend to allow Common Core to continue in North Carolina.