RALEIGH — Legislators forged ahead Wednesday with moving North Carolina’s public schools away from teaching based on Common Core standards, as the full House and a Senate committee approved similar but competing bills.
Common Core is used in more than 40 states, but a few states are having second thoughts about its usefulness to improve student achievement. Some teachers, parents and conservative advocates also say it’s causing confusion and needless worry among schoolchildren learning under curriculum North Carolina schools began testing upon two years ago.
Rep. Mike Stone, R-Lee, said he’s had a flurry of conversations over the past six months with parents and veteran teachers telling him what’s wrong with Common Core. “I have never found one issue that so many people have come together and said they do not like,” Stone said.
The House measure, like the Senate version, would direct the State Board of Education to halt further development of the standards for the K-12 schools and create a standards commission to recommend changes to the board. Common Core would remain in place, along with its related testing and curriculum, in the meantime.
Critics say North Carolina and other states latched onto Common Core to get a leg up on winning Race to the Top awards. North Carolina received nearly $400 million in grants. The bill is “going to get rid of a program we never should have accepted in the first place,” said Rep. Michael Speciale, R-Onslow, a primary sponsor. “For a big check, we sold our kids’ education.”
Legislators opposed to the bill warned the change could ultimately lead to lower standards in a world where students are competing for future jobs based on their skills. Rep. Marcus Brandon, D-Guilford, suggested the House bill is a political document designed to placate constituents who are misconstruing the standards.
“At some point we have to understand that education cannot be political rhetoric all the time, because the only thing that happens is our kids end up suffering the most,” Brandon said. The House measure was approved 78-39, with three Democrats joining all Republicans voting in support of the bill.
While the House wants a nine-member permanent standards commission, the Senate version — which cleared the chamber’s education committee — shuts down an 11-member commission by the end of next year. The two chambers ultimately will have to work out their differences to get a final bill to Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican who’s spoken out for the standards.
The North Carolina Chamber opposes removing Common Core, as does the N.C. Association of Educators. Association Vice President Mark Jewell said a majority of teachers support the standards.
“Our Common Core state standards are providing a rigorous framework four classroom teachers,” Jewell told the Senate Education Committee. The Senate bill next heads to another committee.
The standards were developed in 2009 by the National Governors Association and a council representing state school chiefs.