Today is the first day of the 2015-16 school year in lots of places throughout North Carolina and editorial pages across the state this past weekend welcomed back the return of teachers and students with some harsh words for the political powers that be.

The Winston-Salem Journal minced no words in an editorial entitled “Teacher shortage: Legislature must end the brain drain”:

“North Carolina once concentrated on providing the best public education it could. But in the first years of the 21st century, Democratic leaders lagged in funding for education. The Republicans have been harder on it.

Some Republicans seem to have made a point of bad-mouthing teachers and the teaching profession. That doesn’t create an atmosphere in which they feel appreciated.

And the legislature has taken more concrete steps to diminish the teaching profession by eliminating the teaching fellows program and stipends for advanced degrees. Right now, as the legislature fumbles around with its budget, teacher assistants hang in limbo, not knowing if they’ll have jobs once the dust settles. Teachers had to take the state to court earlier this year just to retain tenure status.

And despite some movement toward raising salaries, our teachers continue to be underpaid for the important work they do.

Texas and other states have come to North Carolina to recruit new teachers, knowing they can offer better deals. And many teachers have accepted.

Who pays for this backward motion? The students, initially, and then our communities, which wind up with less-educated members and a less-educated workforce that fails to attract the jobs of the future.

Education is the best predictor of future success. If the legislature really wants to bring in new companies and jobs, it would recognize that instead of shortchanging our teachers, our students and our future.”

Here’s the Fayetteville Observer reminding us that the ideological driven move to rewrite the Common Core standards will be very expensive:

“The Academic Standards Review Commission has released some of its preliminary reports on how to revise teaching standards for math and English.

In addition to its curriculum recommendations, the commission added this: Once the revisions are made, the schools will need money for new teaching materials, including textbooks, and a sufficient number of teachers and teacher assistants to carry out the job.

The budget that lawmakers are negotiating doesn’t have that money in it. The Senate, in fact, wants to get rid of at least 8,500 teacher assistants and hire about 3,300 new teachers for lower grades.

We might indeed end up with better schools if the review commission’s advice is heeded. But we need to remember that the Common Core pushback was purely political, rooted in the canard that it’s a federal takeover of education. It’s not. The standards were developed by educators. And they are widely supported by business and the military. Can we really afford this exercise in the politics of education?”

And finally, the Wilmington Star News put it this way in a piece entitled “Let’s support our teachers”:

Read More


Common Core picMembers of a panel tasked with reviewing and possibly replacing the controversial Common Core academic standards convened Monday to unveil their draft recommendations on how to restructure math and English language arts academic goals for grades K-12 in North Carolina.

I couldn’t be there yesterday, but several media outlets covered the meeting.

From the News & Observer:

The Academic Standards Review Commission met Monday to discuss draft recommendations for changes to Common Core, national standards for English and math that cover kindergarten through 12th grade. The proposals call for a restructuring of high school math, adopting Minnesota standards for kindergarten through 8th grade math, a streamlining of English goals, and making more opportunities for students to write.

The state adopted Common Core in 2010. It is not a curriculum, but a set of detailed goals students should achieve by the end of each grade. Schools are entering their fourth year using the standards, but the goals continue to be a target of criticism. The commission, a group of political appointees, was charged with reviewing the standards and sending their recommendations for changes to the legislature and the State Board of Education by the end of the year.

The N&O’s Bonner reported that those reviewing the Common Core math standards recommended going back to teaching Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II separately, rather than in an integrated fashion over three years as Common Core suggests.

Reviewers looking at the English language arts standards focused on areas that were developmentally inappropriate and came down on the Common Core for moving too far away from writing instruction.

“I think we can generally agree that writing is falling to the wayside,” said high school English teacher and commission member Katie Lemons. Read More


Members of a review commission tasked with vetting the Common Core met Monday to hear from nationally known critics of the standards who advocated for their complete rehaul.

WUNC’s Reema Khrais has the rundown here:

Sandra Stotsky and James Milgram both served on the Common Core Validation Committee from 2009-10 and refused to sign off on them as being “rigorous, internationally competitive or research-based.” They were among five of the 29 committee members who didn’t approve them.

Since then, Stotsky [English language arts expert] and Milgram [math expert] have visited more than a dozen states to discuss problems they perceive with the standards, along with recommendations on how states should move forward.

“We need to have first-rate standards developed for this country,” said Stotsky, education professor at the University of Arkansas. “You do not have them in North Carolina.”

As Khrais reports, Stotsky recommended to the review commission that they consider adoption of better state standards, such as those of California or Massachusetts. Milgram suggested a total re-write of the math standards.

Read More


Members of the Academic Standards Review Commission (ASRC) met Friday afternoon to continue their work in reviewing the Common Core State Standards and developing recommendations for high quality alternatives. But commission members quickly ran into a road block when the issue of the Common Core’s copyright arose, with some members becoming concerned that attempts to revise the standards, instead of scrapping them wholesale, would be met with a lawsuit.

State Board of Education attorney Katie Cornetto told ASRC members that they were free to come up with replacement standards that comprise some or even nearly all of the Common Core yet are called something else, and that they would not be in violation of copyright law because the standards are part of the public domain.

Cornetto’s assertion was contradicted by ASRC member Tammy Covil, who said that the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), which are owners of the Common Core, would have to issue North Carolina a waiver if they wanted to use some of the Common Core standards in their replacement recommendations.

Covil, who has publicly decried the Common Core, said she did not feel comfortable moving forward with evaluating the standards and considering keeping parts of the Common Core until she saw a waiver from either the CCSSO or the NGA, neither of which have agreed to awarding one to North Carolina, she said.

“Either we go with an entirely new set of standards…as a recommendation…or we merely revise Common Core and open us up to a lawsuit,” said Covil. Read More


The Academic Standards Review Commission – that’s the state commission charged with reviewing and replacing the Common Core State Standards – meets again this Friday.

With the commission now adequately funded, members should be able to begin hearing from experts and assessing what benchmarks students should master.

But whether the commission decides to tweak the current standards or scrap them altogether is anyone’s guess.

NPR’s Claudio Sanchez took a closer look at the state’s efforts in his report this morning, which aired locally on

Andre Peek (L) and Jeannie Metcalf (R)  co-chair the Academic Standards Review Commission.

Andre Peek (L) and Jeannie Metcalf (R) co-chair the Academic Standards Review Commission.

State lawmakers say they’ve been besieged by parents who are unhappy with, or confused by, the homework they’re seeing. Other critics see the Common Core as a Faustian bargain with Washington, which gave North Carolina $44 million to help implement the Core.

‘Review And Replace’

“North Carolina sold her soul,” says Jeannie Metcalf, a school board member from Salem, N.C. She co-chairs an 11-member commission that legislators created last July to “review and replace” the Common Core. That’s what the legislation — Senate Bill 812 — says. But now there’s a debate about what “review and replace” actually means.

To supporters of the core, it means the standards may need a tweak here and there. To opponents, it means they must be scrapped.

“That’s clearly what we are charged with and the intent of the legislation and of the commission,” says Metcalf.

The commission’s co-chair, Andre Peek, disagrees.

“Do I believe that the Common Core standards need to be replaced? Are not good? No. I don’t believe that at all,” he says.

Peek, a retired IBM marketing executive, was appointed by Governor Pat McCrory, a Republican and Common Core supporter. Peek says the commission’s mandate is not to repeal the new standards but to answer some basic questions before schools move forward with them.

Questions like: Is the Common Core rigorous enough? Can people understand it? And, has it been implemented in a way that’s going to lead to the desired outcomes?

The review commission has all year to answer these questions and to hear from all kinds of experts, for and against the Common Core. A couple of surveys are also in the works to gauge teachers’ and parents’ views. In December, the commission will deliver its recommendations to the legislature and state board of education. But in the meantime, the Common Core will remain firmly in place.

Peek says he’s confident that the commission will reach a consensus if, and only if, it’s based on the educational merits of the standards.

“And I can tell you right now that we’re not going to be used as a tool for some political outcome,” he says.

Peek’s co-chair, Jeannie Metcalf, does not see a consensus brewing: “There’s a chance anything can happen.”

Read More