NC’s Common Core Standards

North Carolina’s House Education Committee voted to move forward with passing a bill (House Bill 1061) designed to replace Common Core standards with those more appropriate for North Carolina Public education.

Insert pause for the jokes about what defines appropriate NC standards.

Does Common Core fail?  Let’s first start with answering the question, “What is Common Core.”

Common Core is a set of standards.  Standards being something along the lines of “all first graders should be able to identify words like “see, jump, what” by the end of 1st grade.

Before common core, under the rules of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), each state set their own standards.  Maybe NC standards note that kindergartners should be able to reason out that replacing the letter a in the word cat with the letter u makes the word cut* while Kansas is satisfied with them reading cat.

Or maybe North Carolina wanted kindergartners to count to 100 by ones and tens* and Oklahoma doesn’t think kindergartners should do any counting over 50.

*These are examples of two kindergarten common core standards, which can be found in this reference guide.

Different states with such a wide variety of grade-level education standards?  What could possibly go wrong—it’s not as if families ever move to a different state.

Where do I buy my Common Core, First Grade Math book?

You don’t.  Because common core is a set of standards and not a curriculum.

A curriculum is the planned interaction of pupils with instructional content, materials, and used to deliver information.  For example, Wake County uses the Letterland curriculum to teach letter/phonemic awareness to K-2 grade; Cumberland County does not.   Children in both counties would meet the common core standard if they leave kindergarten able to recognize and name all of the letters in the alphabet.

Edited to add: A photograph of a piece of my 1st grader’s schoolwork that came home yesterday.  He fixed the sentence structure (an error in the curriculum) before demonstrating he understood the concept (common core standard).

A picture demonstrating a grammatically incorrect sentence on a first grader's school work.

Click to enlarge.

You can’t throw stone into the google pond without hitting pages of experts agreeing, or not agreeing, with common core standards and the dismal quality of United States education. At the beginning of the year I was a CC hater too, especially with the math.  Show your work two ways with math mountains and number partners—what a waste of time and effort, I thought.  This way of teaching this is stttupppiiddd, I whispered to myself.

I was wrong.

Listen, I have been reading LIKE IT’S MY JOB for 35 of my almost 38 years.   I still encounter words I cannot pronounce, thank you animal kingdom naming conventions.  However, because of a long relationship with the rules of language, I can often muddle out a pronunciation. Or how I work through compound words with an early reader—breaking a large word into recognizable pieces.   This decoding method has existed for reading since back in the ancient times of my own 1st grade favorite– Buffy and Mack.

That concept of decoding words rather than insisting on rote memorization has been extended to teaching mathematical concepts.  How can teaching children multiple methods of finding solutions be a bad thing?

Do I think there is a point where a child should stop having to show his work for 5+5?  Yeah, but that would be true with or without a set of common standards.

Back to Common Core– sort of.  Part of the issue with replacing Common Core with NC’s own shiny set of standards is the 400 million dollars we accepted as recipients of the Race to the Top award (part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act).

Some of the funds were designated to stimulate and strengthen states’ efforts with their lowest achieving schools.  Turn around NC’s lowest achieving schools (TALAS) identified 188 Priority 1 schools in the bottom 5%– defined as those with performance composites or graduation rates at less than 60%.

That’s 188 elementary (E), middle (M), and high (H) schools, in 36 counties (or LEAs–local education agencies) performing at less than 60%.  A listing of these lowest achieving schools can be found here.

NC accepted a bunch of money in partnership with a federal grant, a large chunk of which was distributed to failing schools in historically poor counties and, like, agreed to do this thing, but now ha-ha, take backs.  But don’t worry, y’all winky-winky I heard on the news they’ll be sure not to mess up and lose the money they already spent.

I cannot deny that the testing– the EOGs, the assessments, the tests, the– have I mentioned tests?– are excessive to the point of projectile vomiting.  I cannot understand why these kids have to be tested– oh, wait.  I DO understand.  The development and grading of those tests cost money.  Money earned by companies that do that sort of thing. The same companies that design the text books.  The same companies  (Pearson) that make oodles of money with a poorly designed and edited product.

I’d be okay with tossing Common Core if I thought they were going to use Finland’s education model— but we all know that’s not going to happen.  Instead I assume they are going to continue down the path of virtual learning and teacher reduction and charter school creation, both of which are for-profit entities receiving public school tax dollars.

So, using those critical thinking skills I learned IN NC PUBLIC SCHOOLS– naw, just kidding– I got ’em in college, this is dummy legislation that can’t actually go anywhere beyond a neatly filled in circle for a candidate on a voting form.  Brilliant.

Let’s give a shout out to the members of the House trying to tear down a whole building because they suddenly decided that they preferred a taupe, not griege, carpet.

Primary sponsors:

Bryan HollowayLarry PittmanMichael Speciale

Then the sidekicks:

John BellMark BrodyJimmy DixonJeffrey ElmoreCarl FordJon HardisterKelly HastingsPat HurleyFrank IlerBert JonesChris MaloneSusan MartinPat McElraftTim MooreMichelle PresnellDennis RiddellPaul StamBob SteinburgMichael StoneHarry WarrenChris WhitmireRoger Younts