Common Core: Big changes ahead?

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.

WUNC’s Reema Khrais highlighted a presentation given by Carole Ardizonne, a former educator who once helped write academic standards for New York.

During [Ardizzone’s] presentation she picked apart some of the Common Core goals for students, like this one for first-graders.

“Write an opinion piece in which they introduce a topic or name the book they’re writing about, state an opinion, supply a reason party for the opinion and provide some sense of closure,” she said.

A few conservative critics in the front row chuckled.

“Write an opinion? Do you know what high level thinking that is, for you to take somebody else’s thoughts or ideas and write your opinion, when a child doesn’t even know for sure what an opinion is?” she asked.

“We have people in the legislature who can’t do that!” a commission member added, as people in the room broke into laughter.

Check out WRAL’s coverage of yesterday’s meeting here.

If you haven’t followed the debate on Common Core, I’ve written about it in the past — check out previous stories here and here to catch up.

In a nutshell: Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are a set of guidelines that were developed by a group of governors and state superintendents several years ago. They set forth what students should know and be able to do in English Language Arts and mathematics, and they’ve incited a great deal of controversy both in North Carolina and around the nation.

Parents, teachers, and other stakeholders have called into question whether or not the standards demand excessive testing, if they are grade-level appropriate, and if they serve as a vehicle for corporate profit. Some states have either opted out or plan to opt out of the adoption of the standards.

But proponents of the standards say Common Core is badly needed, providing increased academic rigor that will better prepare students for today’s workforce demands.

Siding with those who are clamoring for homegrown academic standards that North Carolina can say it owns, state lawmakers passed a bill last year that halted the Common Core’s implementation and created a politically appointed Academic Standards Review Commission that is tasked with reviewing the standards and suggesting appropriate changes.

The panel’s members have until December 2015 to send to the state their final recommendations for how to change Common Core. Before then, the panel will hold regional teacher meetings to get more on the ground feedback.

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