Debating the Common Core


With the exception of how to pay teachers, the most controversial education issue being discussed by the General Assembly is the implementation of the Common Core.

The Common Core State Standards is a set of educational requirements that have been adopted by 45 states to help standardize what students learn across the United States and make our educational system competitive with other countries around the world.

The movement to develop these common standards was sponsored by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Gov. Pat McCrory and Superintendent June Atkinson are members of these organizations.

The Common Core does not dictate the curriculum used in school. Teachers and school districts still get to choose what books to read and what materials to use for teaching. It does tell schools and teachers what types of skills students should have at each level.

The Common Core currently only has standards for math and language arts. For example, here is the first standard for reading in third grade: “Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers.”

At the end of the 2013 legislative session, the General Assembly appointed a study committee to review the state’s use of the Common Core. Some members of the General Assembly have been very critical of the standards, while others have been very supportive. Everyone seems to be concerned about the way they are being implemented across the state.

Supporters of the Common Core argue that it helps to raise the standards being used in our educational system so that American students will be able to compete with those from other countries. Most educators agree that the Common Core promotes more critical thinking and deeper understanding of concepts than we have seen since the era of standardized testing pushed many classrooms to focus more on basic skills. Some also argue that having standardization across states means students who move will have a more consistent education.

Opponents of the Common Core have a variety of arguments, but the one most consistently voiced is opposition to a federal intrusion into our state’s educational system. The federal government did not have a hand in developing the standards, but the Department of Education did require states to use the standards if the state wished to receive grant funding through the Race to the Top program. North Carolina won a Race to the Top grant in 2010 and has been using nearly $400 million dollars to update the state’s educational system, including implementing the Common Core.

Both Republicans and Democrats seem to share some concern that for-profit corporations and major foundations led the development of the Common Core in large part. The Common Core standards are actually copyrighted by the Governors and Chief School Officers Associations. The implementation of these standards in our state and across the country has created an opportunity for some companies to make a lot of money by developing materials and training to accompany the standards themselves. There seems to be some agreement that North Carolina should maintain as much control as possible over what is taught in our school.

I strongly support the use of the Common Core. As an experienced educator, I think they push our system in the right direction and will ensure that our students receive a world-class education in the 21st century. I am also very appreciative of the teachers and school administrators that have already put in hours of work to customize the Common Core for our classrooms.

That said, I am among those concerned about the profits being made from our federal and state tax dollars as we implement the Common Core. I am also concerned that we have struggled to provide adequate training and support for implementing the Common Core statewide.

If this is an issue that you are interested in, please join me in Raleigh on March 20 at 10 a.m. when the General Assembly will have a meeting to hear public comment about the Common Core. It will be a great chance for concerned voices to be heard.