by Dr. Terry Stoops
Former Director of the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
The North Carolina Academic Standards Review Commission published their draft Report of Findings and Recommendations (PDF). The commission will vote on the report later today and deliver it to the NC State Board of Education for their consideration.
English Language Arts
The commission recommends that the state revise the current Common Core English Language Arts (ELA) standards. The revision would be substantial, however, leaving only the shell of the Common Core English standards intact. Given the North Carolina’s ongoing struggles with reading performance, strengthening the state’s standards is sensible.
The commission recommends adopting the Minnesota math standards, with necessary revisions, for elementary and middle school students. High school students would return to the pre-Common Core sequence of Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II. There was little in the Common Core math standards that can be salvaged, so adopting the best state math standards available is a superb recommendation. Certainly parents will appreciate the return to mathematical normalcy.
Here is where I disagree with the commission. They recommend,
Contingent upon State Board of Education adoption, the NCDPI should align future tests and assessments to the revised standards. Given that most standardized testing is currently aligned to the Common Core State Standards, it is recommended that the State Board of Education and NCDPI use resources within the state to develop North Carolina tests for the purpose of measuring student proficiency.
I do not think that the proper role of the NC Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) is to coordinate the development, administration, scoring, and reporting of standardized tests. I would much rather see North Carolina adopt national, norm-referenced test of student achievement, such as the Iowa Test of Basic Skills.
That said, the commission did not focus on evaluating assessments, so their recommendation was based on a very cursory examination of the issue. I suspect that their recommendation would be much different if given the chance to evaluate data and hear competing points of view.
Two out of three ain’t bad. The recommendations associated with the ELA and math standards are well reasoned and attainable. The recommendation to sustain the status quo testing program is regrettable but also peripheral in an otherwise laudable effort.
Update: The North Carolina Academic Standards Review Commission passed the ELA recommendations with few changes and little discussion. A majority voted to reject the recommendation to adopt the Minnesota math standards. Overall, a group of members appear to want to weaken the draft math standards.