Education Experts Question Common Core Standards in NC Schools
Education is in the forefront in North Carolina as we approach the new school year. There have been several protests and rallies across the state over new policies and cuts in public education funding. The GOP says not only has it not cut funding for education, it's providing more money than ever before.
But some Republican leaders are concerned about a national one size fits all common core standard adopted by North Carolina’s Board of Education in 2010 and approved a year later by lawmakers in Raleigh.
This is the second year NC will use the K-12 learning standards known as “Common Core”.
Nancy and Joe Muster of Clemmons have a 16-year-old daughter in the Winston-Salem Forsyth County School System. They attended an information meeting Tuesday night at Forsyth Technical Community College to learn more about the new learning standards.
Nancy says, “My main concern is that you can’t teach the individual child, and that we are teaching to a large group and not meeting the individual needs.”
Lindalyn Kakadelis is the director of the NC Education Alliance. She is also a former teacher and Charlotte school board member. Kakadelis was the guest speaker at the event hosted by the Forsyth County Republican Party. She explains some of changes taking place in the classroom.
“In math, there will be an emphasis in understanding the process, so therefore in first or second grade if you are memorizing your math facts, well it’s not good enough. Now you are going to have to write sentences to explain what you are doing and you are going to have to draw diagrams,” says Kakadelis.
The rigorous approach is also being implemented in English language arts.
“In the early elementary grades in the English language arts, there is a 50/50 percent that they want to have for informational text with literature, but in high school you are looking at a separation of 70 percent informational text with 30 percent literature, so there is a lot of concern about what might be left out,” says Kakadelis.
The K-12 learning standards known as “Common Core” have been adopted by 45 states, including Virginia and South Carolina. NC is one of a handful of states that received a $400 million Race to the Top federal grant to help implement the new system.
Kakadelis says historically the public education system in the United States has been using a liberal arts based curriculum.
“My concern really rests in the fact that the state board has to implement common core as it is written in the copyright, she says.
“We can add 15 percent more if we want to add cursive writing. Yes, we can do that, but we can’t take anything out of Common Core. And let’s say we decide that the building blocks for the math standards aren’t really working for our students and we need to introduce another concept, well our state board has lost control of that and so has our General Assembly by saying and putting copy righted material into state law,” says Kakadelis
But education experts say the common core will provide consistent curriculum across states and will better prepare students for college and the global workforce. They also say the standards will allow states to compare standardized test scores accurately.
Lt. Governor Dan Forest serves on the state education board of education, which is currently reviewing the common core at his direction. He says there hasn't been enough field testing for the standards. He’s also concerned about the cost of implementing the K-12 learning system in North Carolina.
Kakadelis says there are a lot of unanswered questions about the process. She says the General Assembly will have to figure out how assessments will work. They should decide that next session.
Kakadelis says, “Lawmakers are going to be voting on whether or not we go along and adopt the Smarter Balance Testing Assessment piece to that because there is a cost for that. Previously, when we were doing the end of grade or end of course assessments it was about $10.00 per student. The projected cost of Smarter Balance is $27.00 per student. The assessments are all online, so another question is do all of our schools in NC have enough bandwidth so students can take these assessments?”
In the meantime, Kakadelis says she is encouraging parents to examine the new standards. The Department of Public Instruction is rolling out an online manual for use by teachers, students and parents called Homebase.