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The New York Times had a great story this weekend that took took readers into the life of a 9-year-old student who is experiencing the bumpy transition from old, weaker academic standards to the new, more rigorous Common Core State Standards.

Chrispin Alcindor is a child of Haitian immigrants attending a public school in Brooklyn who is reeling from seeing his once stellar marks in math take a nosedive thanks to a more rigorous curriculum developed in response to the Common Core.

In math, Ms. Matthew’s [Chrispin's classroom teacher] mantra was simple: “Prove it.” It was no longer sufficient for students to memorize multiplication tables. They had to demonstrate exactly what three times five meant by shading in squares on a grid. If the topic was fractions, they would slide around neon-colored tiles on their desks until they could prove that three-quarters was the same as six-eighths. Math instruction had long been derided as inaccessible; the Common Core aimed to change that by asking students to explain their calculations and solve modern-day problems.

Taken together, the demands of the Common Core were daunting. But Ms. Matthew was persistent. In March, with a few weeks to go before the first exams, she knew exactly which students were struggling and which lacked help from their parents. She knew who needed one-on-one coaching and who was most at risk of failing and in danger of being sent to summer school. She kept a close eye on Chrispin.

Chrispin experiences test anxiety and struggles with the increased academic demands that are placed on his shoulders. Does he make progress? Is he on a path toward success? Click here to read his story, and hopefully the Times will follow Chrispin’s academic journey over the long haul.

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Retired generals from North Carolina urged state lawmakers today not to repeal the Common Core State Standards, holding them up as the answer to maintaining a strong and highly qualified military force for the United States.

“It is alarming that poor educational achievement is one of the leading reasons why an estimated 75 percent of all young Americans are unable to join the military,” said Ret. U.S. Army Major General Bennie Williams. “Too many high school graduates do not have the skills the military needs.”

Ret. U.S. Army Lt. General Marvin L. Covault noted that 7,000 students drop out of school every academic day thanks to poor educational standards and resources – limiting the pool of highly qualified people the U.S. military has access to when choosing its soldiers.

“Common Core State Standards will increase the pool of qualified resources to select our ranks from,” said Gen. Covault, holding a report that details how North Carolina’s standards, which include the Common Core, help students acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to ensure the nation’s future military strength. Read More

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If you follow education news in North Carolina, there’s a lot to keep your eyes on this week.

The week kicks off with Moral Monday, which is focused on education. A pre-rally meeting begins at 3pm in the legislative auditorium of the General Assembly building, followed by a 4pm press conference. The actual rally takes place at 5pm on the Halifax Mall — follow #SchooltheNCGA on Twitter for live updates. I’ll be tweeting from there too — follow me @LindsayWagnerNC.

The House budget is expected to be released tomorrow, and possibly as soon as this evening. Tillis and other House GOP leaders will present their budget tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. in the press conference room of the Legislative Building (Room 1328).

Tillis’ comments at the state Republican convention this weekend suggested that he’s more comfortable with the Governor’s budget rather than the Senate’s, so we will see if teachers’ raises are a little lower than the Senate’s proposal, cuts to the rest of the education budget are fewer than the Senate’s, and the UNC system ends up taking that $49 million hit that McCrory suggested to pay for teachers’ raises. Look for stories from N.C. Policy Watch that will take a close look at the House’s budget proposal.

As the House considers whether or not to strip the state of second and third grade classroom TAs, the N&O published this story over the weekend about how Sen. Phil Berger’s justification for scaling TAs back comes from research out of Tennessee, which found that pupils in small classes of 13-17 students did better than those who were in larger classes of 22-25 students staffed with teacher assistants.

Last year, the General Assembly lifted the cap on classroom size and many elementary teachers grapple with classrooms filled with twenty students or more. The research didn’t look at the comparison between the academic outcomes of students in large classrooms with teacher assistants and in large classrooms with only one teacher and no help to manage the chaos.

The disclosure of salaries for public charter school employees was a hot topic last week that will be revisited again by the Senate education committee on Wednesday. At issue is whether or not charter school operators should have to disclose what they pay their teachers and other staff, even though the State Board of Education requires them to be subject to the N.C. Public Records law in their authorization process.

In an initial version of the bill, SB 793 sought to codify the State Board’s rule that charter schools be subject to the Public Records Act — but that language was stripped from a committee substitute bill last week. The Senate education committee will take it up for a vote on Wednesday at 10 a.m.

ICYMI: Last week the big story was Common Core, with the full House voting on a bill that would repeal the academic standards that North Carolina has spent millions of dollars to implement, while the Senate passed its own version of the bill that left a little more room for Common Core to stay in place — but comments from Sen. Jerry Tillman indicated he’d probably find a way to make sure that didn’t happen. Stay tuned to see how it all shakes out when the two houses duke it out in committee, some time in the next few weeks.

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In case you missed it, the editorial page of the Governor’s hometown newspaper, the Charlotte Observer, is urging the man they endorsed for office back in 2012 to stand up the legislature over the repeal of the Common Core standards in education:

“The governor reiterated his belief in Common Core again Thursday when he told reporters that eliminating the standards was ‘not a smart move.’ McCrory also said, however, that he wouldn’t go so far as to say he’d veto a bill that repeals Common Core.

That has us worried. Our governor has an unfortunate history of professing one thing, yet cowing to Republican lawmakers when they send legislation his way….

Repealing Common Core also would waste years of curriculum and teacher preparation for the new standards, and it would steal one of Common Core’s critical benefits – the opportunity to compare our scores with other states and make adjustments based on best practices around the country.

The reason Republicans want to repeal Common Core, instead of fixing its minor issues, is that conservatives have fallen for the fiction that it’s a federal takeover of education. In other words, it’s politics. The governor knows it. Will he stand up to it, or will he once again decide to give in to politics himself? This time, our state’s children await the answer.”

Read the full editorial by clicking here.

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common-coreIf you missed it yesterday, be sure to read Lindsay Wagner’s story , “State Board of Education’s authority weakened with legislation that replaces Common Core,” over on the main Policy Watch site. It’s an extremely informative piece that explains the latest developments in North Carolina’s never-ending political game of legislative micromanagement of public schools.

As Wagner reports, lawmakers are poised to repeal the state’s involvement in the Common Core State Standards because of the standards’ supposed widespread unpopularity amongst parents and educators. (There was more action today.) Notwithstanding the fact that the proponents are likely wrong — at least about the attitudes of educators — here’s the part of the story that especially deserves to be highlighted:

It is not Common Core that’s really causing the widespread unrest being felt in many public schools these days as students, teachers and parents deal with the explosion of high-stakes tests. This from Wagner’s story: Read More