When will North Carolina jettison the Common Core?

Senator Jerry Tillman’s bill that would aim to replace the Common Core academic standards with alternatives developed by a North Carolina review commission would allow Common Core to remain in place this fall, as students return to their classrooms and commission members consider different solutions.

But remarks made by Sen. Tillman yesterday at the Senate Education Committee meeting, where the proposed legislation was ultimately moved forward on a voice vote, incited some confusion over whether or not Common Core would be gone as soon as his bill became law, presumably within a few weeks.

“This bill becomes effective July 1, the Common Core standards are removed and repealed as of July 1,” explained Tillman to committee members.

“So what course of study are the kids using when they go back to school in August,” queried Sen. Angela Bryant.

“The Standard Course of Study is what we’ll continue to use until we have changes recommended and approved by the State Board,” responded Tillman.

Bryant explained she understood the NC Standard Course of Study to include Common Core standards — and they do, in English Language Arts and math.

“Common Core standards are a part of what we’re operating under now and those can be rejected or accepted in part, whatever. It’s up to the standards commission,” said Tillman, who also said that the review commission could make recommendations as soon as December of this year.

As the bill is written, Common Core would remain the default standards for English and math once students start school again this year. But if the review committee works quickly, it seems that those standards could get thrown out midyear — a difficult prospect to imagine given the lengthy review process for academic standards that is typically undertaken in North Carolina.

Also unclear was whether or not the Senate bill could keep the door open for Common Core standards to remain in place indefinitely.

“You said the committee could come back and recommend none, some or all of the Common Core standards,” said Sen. Mike Woodward, “so is it possible, then, that we could be right back where we are if they come back and recommend all the standards – could we have Common Core back in place?”

“Senator, that won’t happen.” Tillman responded, provoking some laughter in the room. “It could be, but listen. That committee, that standards commission, will put it in North Carolina’s hands. If Common Core was such a great idea, they’d have a test for it, would they not? So you could compare how we’re doing…we have no national test and there won’t be one. We’ll have that with this standards commission. So I think that I trust them to do this thing right.”

Members of that review commission would include four appointees of Sen. Phil Berger, four appointees of Speaker Thom Tillis, one appointee of Gov. Pat McCrory and two members of the State Board of Education.

Other concerns raised about the Common Core bill included the prospect of scratching years of teachers’ work, who have engaged in countless hours of professional development and curriculum redesign to meet the more rigorous standards — work that was largely funded by the receipt of the federal Race to the Top grant. The state has very little money earmarked for professional development that could retrain teachers on any new standards adopted.

But supporters of the bill say they’ve gotten an earful from constituents and believe it’s important to scrap the controversial academic standards, which are cited as age-inappropriate in some grade levels and are the cause for excessive testing in the state.

“I’ve had several town halls on this, and the vast preponderance were against Common Core,” said Sen. Bill Cook. “There are a lot of folks out there displeased with this, and I’m thanking the Lord and Jerry [Tillman] for bringing this [the Common Core bill] forward.”

The Senate Education Committee passed the bill on to Appropriations on a voice vote.

Last night, the House passed their own version of a bill to replace Common Core, with key differences being funding levels to support the review commission, numbers of commission appointees granted to House and Senate leaders, and the House bill allows for the review commission to work alongside the State Board of Education indefinitely.


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