By a vote of 8 to 4 the State Board of Education (SBE) this morning approved the revised English Language Arts (ELA) standards. While many believe they are an improvement over the previous standards, when all is said and done, they are still Common Core Lite Standards – which means I won’t support them.
Four SBE members voted against the motion to adopt included Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, Olivia Oxendine, Todd Chasteen and Amy White. White expressed her reservations about the rigor the standards and referenced the disappointing percentage of students performing at grade level on state tests.
SBE Vice Chair Buddy Collins, who said he supported the standards because they represent an improvement over the previous standards, urged the board to seek an independent evaluation of the English Language Arts Standards to show they are rigorous, age appropriate and aligned to North Carolina’s college and career goals.
Eric Davis, an SBE member who with Olivia Oxendine chaired the sub-committee that revised the ELA standards, said the he would “be glad to participate in that process.”
That’s a good sign. As was State Superintendent Mark Johnson’s comment that he would support creation of a subcommittee to direct how the standards might be independently evaluated.
While it’s true conservatives failed to stop adoption, we should work hard to solicit an independent review of ELA standards. The dirty little secret is that DPI represents a “one-stop” center for all things educational in North Carolina, and that’s not good. The Department of Public Instruction – with input from others stakeholders around the state developed the standards. NC DPI developed the testing apparatus; and NC DPI will largely control the evaluation process.
This is highly unusual set up and not desirable for many reasons, foremost of which is there is no independent assessment or check on quality. An outside independent review would address these concerns. It’s a step that is conspicuously missing from the current process.
If the standards are as good as supporters say they are, SBE will hear it from outside sources. If not, SBE will know what needs to be changed. Peer review is a missing piece on this entire process. And it’s a piece that good organizations should embrace.
For those who oppose an independent review, I’d simply ask: Why?
Though no motion was made at today’s meeting for an independent review, the argument was made and key people are on record for supporting such an effort. That’s progress.
In a couple of months SBE will vote to approve new math standards – which again, look amazingly similar to Common Core standards. Parents, teachers and other members of the public who wish to comment on the new standards can do so here. Comments will be taken until April 20th.