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Common coreThis morning’s edition of the Weekly Briefing attempts to explain why the debate over the education standards known as Common Core are distracting us from larger and more important issues in public schools. Though the standards and the process surrounding their development are certainly flawed, repealing them isn’t the answer. That said, it’s important not to oversell the new standards either:

“For all of its imperfections, simply repealing Common Core is probably not the answer. For some percentage of children, broad-based higher standards will probably help.

By the same token, however, it’s also important not to kid ourselves. For the vast majority of children not currently achieving at desired levels, it will take lots more than just tougher standards [i.e. significantly larger public investments] to lift them up. Let’s hope the current debate isn’t just the latest in a long series of illusory solutions that have repeatedly served to distract Americans from this hard reality.”

It’s also important not to get carried away with criticism as continues to occur on the far right. This morning’s article on Talking Points Memo (“The Vast Network of Common Core Conspiracies”) explains just how loony that talk has gotten — with talk of pornography, Agenda 21 and Muslim conspiracies.

The bottom line: Common Core isn’t as bad or as good as the opponents or proponents allege. Let’s get on with implementing the standards carefully and skeptically and move on to bigger and more important matters.

The Greensboro News & Record puts it this way this morning:

“No one aims to excuse teachers from accountability. Merit pay based on outstanding performance also is worth considering. But finding fair and effective ways to set those policies demands careful study, not an arbitrary mandate that enforces a penalty with the reward. Guilford’s school board members didn’t think that was right, and they’ve been upheld so far.

Their suit doesn’t deal with the larger issue of eliminating tenure for all teachers by 2018. That’s a bad move, too, and ought to be rescinded. At the very least, an N.C. School Boards Association proposal to end tenure for new teachers, but leave it for those who already earned it, is better.

When its spring session begins next month, the legislature should repeal its flawed teacher contract edict. That will spare further legal proceedings and allow time for a more thoughtful approach to teacher compensation and accountability.

[Judge] Doughton made the right call to spare the Guilford and Durham school boards, for now, from the weight of a misguided policy. It’s time to start over.”

Meanwhile, Raleigh’s News & Observer says this:

“Tenure is not what Republicans say it is, and the so-called rewards program for top teachers is not what they say it is. If GOP leaders won’t turn the tide on their attempts to diminish public schools and the teachers who do the noble work in their classrooms, let’s hope the courts continue to do it for them.”

If only the state’s political leaders could see the obvious folly of their ways that seems so apparent to most observers and those affected by their actions.

Read the full editorials by clicking here and here.

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/04/24/3808878/court-rightly-puts-hold-on-law.html?sp=/99/108/#storylink=cpy

Last week’s disturbing news about an ongoing teacher exodus in North Carolina’s capital county (Chris Fitzsimon has the details in this morning’s “Monday numbers”) is rightfully provoking frustration and alarm in many places around the state. A couple of good editorials capture those emotions.

According to the Wilmington Star-News:

“At some point, the state, which pays teacher salaries, is going to put itself at risk of not having enough teachers to carry out its constitutional mandate on schools.

Our students deserve the best and brightest teachers. What is happening in Wake County, which is consistently rated as one of the top places to live in the nation, is not a good sign.”

And Raleigh’s News & Observer puts it this way in an editorial responding to last week’s press conference in Raleigh announcing the bad news: Read More

It’s becoming increasingly clear that any hope for meaningful across-the-board pay raises for North Carolina teachers is withering on the political vine like a strawberry patch nipped by a mid-April freeze. Two new editorials spell this out.

As the Charlotte Observer explains in “A troubling sign for teacher pay,” it’s clear that a new task force on the issue that had gotten off to a promising start will now fail to deliver what’s really needed. As the editorial noted about the latest task force report :

“It’s a clear sign that despite assurances from Gov. Pat McCrory and Republican leaders that N.C. teachers should be paid more, most of them will be neglected again this year. Read More

SchoolsFlexibility on summer reading camps for third graders, a second chance for legislation that would require schools to stock EpiPens, and the case for continuing a Race to the Top-funded program to groom principals for service in high need schools were among the topics heard by lawmakers at today’s Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee meeting in Raleigh.

Read to Achieve

Randolph County superintendent Stephen Gainey asked lawmakers to amend legislation that requires local school districts to provide six-week summer reading camps for all third graders who don’t meet proficiency benchmarks in reading by the end of this school year.

“I’m asking you for flexibility. This is a good piece of legislation. I realize reading is a huge issue,” said Gainey, who begged lawmakers to consider shortening the provision that requires summer camps to last six weeks, instead allowing districts to come up with their own plans as long as they meet the minimum 72 hours of instruction provided to students.

Gainey endorsed a plan that would shorten the summer reading camps to three weeks, which he said would go farther to create the conditions necessary for for parents to commit to the camp and students to be able to concentrate for its duration. He expects 39.5 percent of his third graders to attend the camps. Read More