The House Education Committee approved legislation yesterday to replace Common Core Standards in North Carolina public schools. The bill, which will be heard on the House floor later today was approved by a 28-16 vote by the Committee. It included several significant changes from the original bill drafted by the Common Core Study Committee. The changes include:
Academic Standards Review Commission. Under the new bill the Academic Standards Review Commission (ASRC) has permanent status and is comprised of 9 members. The original legislation called for a non-standing Commission comprised of 17 members. Appointments will be made by the Speaker of the House (3); President Pro-Tem of the Senate (3) Members of the State Board of Education (2); and the Governor (1). The changes essentially remove elected leaders from serving on the Commission.
Other changes include :(1) language to ensure the State Board of Education and ASRC shall collaborate and work to ensure that the standards are some of the highest in the nation and are properly aligned; and (2) provisions to ensure that SBE or any employee does not entering into any agreement that “in any way cedes or limits State discretion or control over the development, adoption, or revision of the North Carolina Standard Course of Study and related student assessments in the public schools system.” To the extent that the provisions are truly followed, these changes are — generally speaking — positive.
There are numerous compelling reasons to oppose the decision to reduce membership of ASRC and make it a standing committee. Doing so creates yet another professional bureaucracy. Common Core is a huge issue with many moving parts. Reducing the size of the Commission means a smaller number of people must shoulder a larger load. It also means limiting the number of perspectives represented. Under the new legislation candidates for the commission are expected “have demonstrated expertise in the development or implementation of standards” or to be “qualified to assure the alignment of standards to college and career readiness.” These changes tips the balance of the Commission away from the public in favor of so called “experts.” No I’m not denigrating the value of expertise and experience. However when a Commission is not balanced and informed by real world perspectives, it loses legitimacy and the ability to truly reflect the voice of the public. It also raises the possibility that a Commission can be easily co-opted.
Common Core Standards deserve a full review. HB 1061 endorses that view and works to ensure that North Carolina students have the highest standards possible and that North Carolinians control what is taught in the public schools. The legislation also weakens the vehicle designed to ensure those tasks are accomplished. The Senate Education Committee will hear SB 812 later today. We can only hope that these concerns are addressed.