What they’re saying about Common Core and Education in NC

Three items ran through my Twitter feed yesterday which nearly made me do a spit-take.

First, the new “nonpartisan news” non-profit, EducationNC, ran one of its first major articles. It was from the Governors Aide, Eric Guckian, titled “Every student deserves the right to reach their potential“.

The opening two paragraphs made me facepalm. The purpose of education for Eric Guckian and the Governor is so kids can get jobs and Mr. Guckian includes “most North Carolinians” in that belief:

Every child deserves an effective education that truly prepares them for success. The data is crystal clear – those states with the greatest increase in educational outcomes are the states with the largest increases in the income of their people and businesses.

Governor McCrory and I believe what most North Carolinians believe, that the purpose of an education is to gain the skills and knowledge that you need to get a job, earn money, and enjoy life.

Here’s the problem with these statements above — they are based on the idea that you can regiment education and therefore regiment what a child does in later life.  Education is for the development of basic skills that will enable any given child to prosper in life. It’s not about dictating a skill set businesses believe they need at any given point. Education is an idiosyncratic as the individual’s possible future.

Imagine your child grows up and finds a job that interests them as a technician at a drug company.  Now imagine your child grows up and his school has dictated to him that he will have to learn certain skills that require he end up as a technician at a drug company. See the distinction?

There is nothing wrong with business having a voice in education or looking to enhance a student’s experience. The focus on high school students is a relevant avenue for business, but the idea business needs should dictate the entire course of education before that level is a disservice to the child and to the community at large.

It has been proven time and again that businesses cannot predict outcomes or demand. Business has been unable to keep up with innovative trends and arguably has institutional blindness, yet business is increasingly taking up all the seats at the education discussion table to dictate what skills are being taught. In fact, with the introduction of Common Core, one can argue the own all the seats and the table itself.

I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry with this section of it; emphasis added:

When it comes to getting real results in education we must agree on 3 things:

First: No economy can grow faster than the rate at which the quality of its workforce improves.

Second: Our workforce can only improve when we have an education system that is preparing the next generation of leaders for the world of the future, not the past.

Third: We need to commit ourselves to being student focused. Our focus should be on the students and outcomes, not grown-ups and money.

DICTATED outcomes.

So, let’s look at that excerpt’s points above and examine how children are being characterized in a more abbreviated manner:
First: Workforce.
Second: Workforce.
Third: Students.

Second, NPR has an article out about North Carolina and the Academic Standards Review Commission.  It’s titled, “North Carolina Rethinks The Common Core“.

The NPR article has one of those sections in it where a teacher is claiming “just a set of standards” has made her a better math teacher.

As a result, Amy Cuthbertson swears she’s become a better math teacher. The 21-year veteran points to the success she’s having with her ninth graders at Dalton L. McMichael High School in Rockingham County. Math scores here are up. Cuthbertson says that’s in large part because students are learning how to apply advanced math concepts to the real world.

Statements like that make should concern parents.  What kind of teacher they were in the first place if they can’t recognize the concerns and flaws in the Common Core math?
[RelatedJames Milgram Speaks about Common Core Math 6th-12th – videos]

Some of the top identified flaws of the Math standards:

  • The Math standards are not high reaching. Like the ELA, the Math standards prepare students for admission to non-selective community colleges only.
  • Views Algebra II as college ready; students will not be prepared for STEM college coursework. Only 39% of students who enter college with Algebra II completion graduate with a 4 year degree and only 2.1% graduate with a STEM degree.
  • Unusual and unproven approach to geometry.
  • Include significant mathematical sophistication written at a level beyond understanding of most parents, students, administrators, decision makers and many teachers.
  • Lack coherence and clarity to be consistently interpreted by students, parents, teachers, administrators, curriculum developers, textbook developers/publishers, and assessment developers.
  • Standards are inappropriately placed, including delayed requirement for standard algorithms, which will hinder student success and waste valuable instructional time. Delays development of some key concepts and skills.
  • Treats important topics unevenly. This will result in inefficient use of instructional and practice time. Math Standards are not well-organized at the high school level. Some important topics are insufficiently covered. The standards are not divided into defined courses.

The NPR article goes on to quote both co-chairs of the ASRC.  Scroll down the article to the section titled, ‘Review and Replace‘.   Metcalf and Peek disagree on the intent of SB 812.  The author of SB 812, Sen. Tillman, has unequivocally indicated the intent is to replace and not just rehash or rename. I noticed NPR did not include a comment from Tillman.

I give NPR credit for noting Peek’s ties to the Governor, but NPR fails to mention Peek’s other important background pieces and vigorous support of Common Core. Those exclusions by NPR made these sentences (below) near the end a bit awkward for those of us who did our homework.

Peek says he’s confident that the commission will reach a consensus if, and only if, it’s based on the educational merits of the standards.

And I can tell you right now that we’re not going to be used as a tool for some political outcome,” he says.

All of the political ties aside, there have been visible signs that Mr. Peek is genuinely concerned with the math aspect of Common Core.

Third, The NC Schools Superintendents Association (NCSSA) has released their “North Carolina Guide to Strengthening Our Public Schools“.

Don’t get too excited, it’s more of the same empty catch phrases and buzzwords we’ve seen over the last few years coupled with the underlying theme we need to throw more money at the problems to fix things.

Do these recommendations below look familiar?

Prepared Graduates | All North Carolina students will graduate prepared for college, careers, and citizenship.

Assessment | School districts will use multiple, balanced, and appropriate assessments to measure student growth and achievement.

Instructional Delivery | All North Carolina public school students will receive high quality instruction delivered by the nation’s best teachers.

Digital Learning | North Carolina will embrace digital learning to transform our public schools and communities.

Human Capital | Develop North Carolina’s human capital for the provision of high-quality public education.

Funding Public Education | North Carolina will rank 25th nationwide in public school funding by 2025.


Note that in the full report, when discussing ‘human capital’, the opinions of the Aspen Institute and Linda Darling Hammond have been used to inform the section.

And, of course, CCSSO President and NC Superintendent “applauds” this ‘plan’:

Jan. 14, 2015
State Superintendent June Atkinson ApplaudsLocal Superintendents’ Guide to Strengthening Public Schools 

The following statement is from State Superintendent June Atkinson regarding the North Carolina School Superintendents Association’s new North Carolina Guide to Strengthening Our Public Schools, available at http://www.ncasa.net/assets/1/20/supt-guide-press_release_1-13-15_(2).pdf?1248:

“Local school superintendents in North Carolina made history this week when they stood united to unveil their vision and leadership document on how North Carolina can strengthen its public schools. I applaud this leadership and support the identified focus areas, especially related to prepared graduates, digital learning, human capital and funding our public schools at a higher level. While every school district has its own unique challenges and strengths, all public schools stand to benefit when educators stand together on behalf of the 1.5 million public school students in our state.”


About A.P. Dillon

A.P. Dillon is a reporter currently writing at The North State Journal. She resides in the Triangle area of North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_ Tips: APDillon@Protonmail.com
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