A North Carolina teacher weighs in on the reality of Common Core repeal

The following essay was submitted to NC Policy Watch this week by a concerned public school teacher.

North Carolina teachers and the Common Core: Now what?
By Rod Powell

It’s already here—a new school year.

Despite a turbulent summer for North Carolina schools—in which legislators repealed the Common Core, slashed teacher assistant funding, and implemented a controversial teacher pay schedule—educators are back in the classroom, preparing students for a year of rigorous and engaging learning.

But as teachers begin their classes, many are asking the question, “What exactly should we be teaching our students?”

For the past three years, the answer was the Common Core. But now, thanks to the General Assembly, the work teachers have done to hone the standards is for naught.

Governor Pat McCrory has called for a review of the Common Core, with a commission to put new standards in place for the 2015-2016 school year. (Members of the commission have yet to be appointed, even though the September 1 deadline looms.)

But teachers can’t wait till 2015. We have students in our classrooms now. So what should we do? Do we spend countless hours planning our instruction and lesson plans for this year’s classes, only to have to overhaul them for entirely new standards just one year from now?

State superintendent Dr. June Atkinson assures educators that North Carolina will still operate under the Common Core for this school year. I hope teachers can take her at her word. But that doesn’t change the millions of dollars that have gone into developing Common Core materials and professional development—not to mention the thousands of hours that hardworking North Carolina teachers have dedicated to refining their craft and implementing the standards.

All that money and effort—what a waste.

I’ve had some interesting conversations with my teaching colleagues about this murky situation as we prepare for the school year.

Take one enthusiastic, first-year English teacher, for example. She graduated from a teacher education program that was specifically designed for a Common Core high school classroom. What do we tell her now? Imagine preparing for a profession for two years and finding out that part of your training was suddenly useless.

Now, I’m confident this particular newcomer to the professional will excel as a teaching professional. She’s intelligent, has great support and mentors, and clear ideas about education. For example, she pointed out that, even though our state has repealed the standards, there’s no fence keeping our students inside North Carolina. Some will move away to other states that have the Common Core, and, ultimately, all students will need the 21st-century skills embedded within the standards. It’s provincial to think otherwise.

The Common Core provided consistency and a curricular anchor for new teachers like my new colleague—as well as teaching veterans like me. The standards helped us push our students further and shape them into global citizens for the 21st century.

North Carolina teachers will continue to adapt our lessons to meet students’ needs, like we have always done. But having the most powerful resource at our disposal—the Common Core—suddenly taken away from us feels like a punch in the gut.

So will this school year be a lost year for our students?

I certainly hope not—they can’t afford it.

Rod Powell is a Nationally Board Certified teacher with 28 years of teaching experience. He teaches social studies in Mooresville, North Carolina and is a member of the Center for Teaching Quality Collaboratory.


  1. Vanessa Jeter

    August 29, 2014 at 1:03 pm

    There has not been a change to the Standard Course of Study – including Common Core – for 2014-15. The standards in place for the last two years continue to be in place. It is worth noting that North Carolina has traditionally reviewed standards on a five-year cycle to determine if standards need to be revised or overhauled at each subject. The current standards were approved in 2010 and implemented in 2012-13 for the first time for students.

  2. Karen Wickersham

    September 1, 2014 at 10:51 am

    I work in another state that is moving on with the standards, warts and all, and my heart goes out to the North Carolina teachers who have been victimized by reactionary politics here, after years of hard work. Looking at what the legislature has done in your state, it seems to me as if the law mainly requires a “review”, and that the standards will still be in place until specifically changed? Perhaps I’m wrong on that? It seems entirely possible that most of the standards will not be found to be evil or subversive, and that the state may adopt them under a new “revised” system. Until then, teachers will soldier on despite the ignorance of community members who have yet to step inside a school, let alone have a discussion with teachers who are actually best prepared to understand the standards.

  3. Rod Powell

    September 2, 2014 at 4:51 pm

    Thanks for the support Karen.

    Agreed – we teachers do soldier on daily because we are professionals and will do what we know to be the best for our students.

    The frustration for me surfaces as our standards become political footballs by those with no foot in the classroom.

    I will note that slow progress is being made on the standards review committee in NC. The appointees have been heavily scrutinized for political affiliations by all sides.

    And as Vanessa Jeter pointed out in a previous comment – Common Core Standards will remain in place for the 2014 – 2015 school year.

    But then what? Will our erudite review committee have new standards by then?

    What and how much should teachers invest in Common Core planning this year knowing that they might be in place next year?

    We’ll do the right thing and soldier on – but where does that leave our students?

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