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Judge Howard Manning

Judge Howard Manning

Sen. Phil Berger

Sen. Phil Berger

The relationship between Judge Howard Manning and North Carolina’s public education system is complicated. For years the veteran Wake County Superior Court judge has presided over the implementation of the the Leandro court ruling that requires that every student in the state be given the opportunity to obtain a “sound basic education.”

At times and to his great credit, Manning has railed at state leaders for not funding education programs adequately and just generally not doing what the state state constitution requires. At other times, however, he seems to buy in to the cockamamie notion so frequently espoused by the current leadership of the General Assembly that North Carolina can get where it needs to go simply by demanding better methods, higher standards and  harder work from teachers and school administrators.

Both of these aspects of Manning’s oversight of the case are on display in this article in today’s Raleigh News & Observer which details a new report he has released on the subject. Read More

Test_takingAs North Carolina contemplates ditching the Common Core State Standards, the state might also want to contemplate this reality: the two preeminent college entrance exams in the United States, the ACT and the SAT, will be aligned with the Common Core.

The ACT, Inc. says its college entrance exam, the ACT, is already aligned with the Common Core and is an active partner with the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

And not to be outdone, last month the College Board announced it will redesign the SAT. David Coleman, the (relatively) new CEO for College Board, said that both the SAT and the ACT had “become disconnected from the work of our high schools.”

David Coleman’s job before taking the helm at the College Board was as an architect of the Common Core State Standards. He focused on writing the English Language Arts standards.

Indiana has become the first state to drop the Common Core State Standards. Lawmakers there worried that their students might be at a disadvantage when it comes to taking the college entrance exams, and representatives from the two companies sought to reassure them.

“I think the big question is, ‘If Indiana decides to completely get away from Common Core — and any undesirably elements of Common Core — would that put Indiana students at a disadvantage when they take the college entrance exams SAT or ACT?’” Sen. Scott Schneider, R-Indianapolis, told StateImpact earlier this year. “I asked that question of both representatives, and both of them said as long as Indiana has college- and career-ready standards, then we would not be putting Indiana kids at a disadvantage.”

A story over at The Huffington Post features test prep expert Jed Applerouth’s review of the 208 page preview of the new SAT. He found that the new exam reflects the Common Core State Standards throughout and that it is essentially a 12th grade Common Core assessment:

Sensitive to the political controversy that has recently embroiled the CCSSI (with states like Indiana withdrawing from the standards altogether) the College Board writers explicitly mention the Common Core only once in the 208-page description of the redesigned SAT. But don’t be fooled; scratch ever so slightly beneath the surface of the new SAT, and you hit a Common Core gold mine.

The best example of how the SAT reflects the new Common Core standards can be found in the math section, per Applerouth:

Nowhere on the new SAT is the move towards Common Core alignment more profoundly evident than in the redesigned Math section. For example, take a look at the College Board’s language outlining the first two skills tested by the new “Heart of Algebra” category of questions:

  1. Create, solve, or interpret linear equations in one variable.
  2. Create, solve, or interpret linear inequalities in one variable.

Compare this language to that of the first Common Core standard in High School Algebra:

  1. Create equations and inequalities in one variable and use them to solve problems.

This minor rewording is indicative of just how deeply the new Math section is tied to the Common Core.

All of this begs the question: if North Carolina ditches the Common Core State Standards, will its students be adequately prepared for college entrance exams?

In today’s News & Observer, a teacher from Culbreth Middle School in Chapel Hill writes about how her colleagues are running out of patience — and money.

Not only is our patience waning, but our strong sense of fairness also is having a difficult time reconciling what is happening to public education in the state of North Carolina. When I accepted my job as a teacher in 2007, I signed a contract – a contract that said I would receive very modest increases to my salary each year. Considering there are no other avenues for advancement as a classroom teacher, this made sense. Now, having never received the step increases I was promised, I have lost $11,360 in salary.

This year alone, I should make $5,400 more than I do. Without this income, I and many of my colleagues have taken on second jobs or are coaching and tutoring at our schools to fill the void. In fact 70 percent of the staff at my school must supplement their incomes this way to make ends meet. Even then, three staff members at Culbreth qualify for food stamps.

Then we saw the state pass tax breaks for the wealthy and further slash education budgets last year. And we began to realize: This is no longer a matter of patience. The treatment of public education in this state is an injustice. And since we teachers have no ability in this state to organize, and we don’t have enough money or clout to influence legislators, we have no choice but to speak with our feet.

Read the full text of Megan Taber’s letter here.

Common coreYet another prominent voice has weighed in against the move advanced by some conservatives in the General Assembly to abandon North Carolina’s adoption of the Common Core education standards for math and English (an issue we explored in some depth yesterday). This is from this morning’s Fayetteville Observer:

“Those with fringe views invariably claim they represent many similar-minded folks, but such support can be measured more in volume than numbers.

Unfortunately, some of those with an extreme education agenda have won seats in our General Assembly and are pushing to erode the Common Core curriculum standards that educators worked so hard to put in place…. Read More

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.