RALEIGH — Just five months after releasing a report that outlined key questions surrounding new Common Core public school education standards, the John Locke Foundation has revised and expanded the report — nearly doubling the number of questions answered.
“Parents, educators, and taxpayers continue to raise serious questions about the Common Core State Standards Initiative,” said report author Dr. Terry Stoops, JLF Director of Research and Education Studies. “As we continue to learn more about Common Core and its potential impact on public education in North Carolina, we see a strong demand for good, solid information.”
Written in a question-and-answer format, Stoops’ revised report expands the number of topics addressed from 35 to 60. Stoops also grouped questions in categories to help readers find the information they seek more quickly.
“Readers will find information about the very basics of Common Core — What is it? Who wrote it? What grades and subjects are covered? — along with sections focusing on Common Core in North Carolina, the federal government’s involvement, the impact on testing and accountability, as well as Common Core’s impact for classroom teachers and data collection,” Stoops said. “The report also addresses political and legal questions surrounding Common Core, and it discusses sources of opposition and support for these new standards.”
Among Stoops’ updates are questions dealing with recent developments in North Carolina’s General Assembly and executive branch. “While the report makes clear that there is no standard left versus right or Democrat versus Republican dimension to support or opposition to Common Core, the revised report mentions Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest’s decision this summer to question the adoption and implementation of Common Core,” Stoops said,. “The report also discusses legislative action in 2013, including a bill to create a Common Core study group. That measure stalled in a state House committee.”
Stoops also points to new lists of more than 30 websites devoted to support for and opposition to Common Core. “That list includes both the N.C. Department of Public Instruction’s Web page with material that explains reasons for adoption of the Common Core standards, along with the StopCommonCoreNC.com site, which offers a much different perspective.”
Readers will learn that the Washington, D.C.-based National Governors Association, Council of Chief State School Officers, and Achieve Inc. supported development of the Common Core standards, with “significant” funding from the Seattle-based Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Stoops addresses questions about the quality of Common Core standards. “There is a great deal of debate about the quality of Common Core English language arts standards,” Stoops said. “The new common standards are likely an improvement over North Carolina’s previous English standards but are still critically flawed,” he said. “A 2012 study from professors at Emory and the University of Arkansas concluded that the Common Core has deficient literature standards and a misplaced stress on literary nonfiction or information reading.”
The news is no better for math standards, Stoops reports. “By most accounts, the Common Core mathematics standards are worse than most existing standards,” he said. “The report cites three different pieces of scathing criticism, including one expert’s assessment that Common Core math standards give students ‘a flimsy make-believe version of mathematics, without the ability to solve actual math problems.'”
Despite these concerns, North Carolina is one 45 states, along with the District of Columbia, Department of Defense schools, and four U.S. territories that have adopted at least one piece of the Common Core. The State Board of Education voted unanimously in June 2010 to adopt Common Core standards.
That vote had nothing to do with any evidence of success linked to Common Core Standards, Stoops reports. “Between the time of adoption and the statewide implementation of Common Core standards, they had not been subject to field-testing.”
Researchers estimate North Carolina public schools might spend as much as $525 million over the next seven years, an average of $75 million a year, to implement Common Core standards, according to Stoops’ report.
Additional information should help parents, educators, and taxpayers as they try to make sense of the growing debate over Common Core, Stoops said. “As Common Core plays a greater role in the future of North Carolina schools, more and more questions arise about its likely impact,” Stoops said. “This report should give people the basic information they need to start to address their concerns.”
Dr. Terry Stoops’ Spotlight report, “60 Questions About Common Core: Answers for North Carolinians,” is available at the JLF website. For more information, please contact Stoops at (919) 828-3876 or [email protected]. To arrange an interview, contact Mitch Kokai at (919) 306-8736 or [email protected].