RALEIGH — New public school standards dubbed the Common Core are generating questions for parents and taxpayers across the nation, including North Carolina. A new
John Locke Foundation Spotlight report aims to answer many of those questions.
“Unfortunately, readily accessible information about the Common Core is often hard to come by,” said report author Dr. Terry Stoops, JLF Director of Research and Education Studies. “That’s the reason for compiling this Common Core primer. North Carolina taxpayers should use it as a first step in an ongoing effort to assess the massive changes underway in our public schools.”
Stoops’ report addresses 35 topics in a question-and-answer format, starting with the most basic: What is the Common Core State Standards Initiative? “The Common Core State Standards are a series of grade-by-grade educational standards,” the report explains. “In 2014, the state plans to add tests that correspond to the standards.”
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.
The report goes beyond basic details to address 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 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. He also tackles several questions about the federal government’s involvement with Common Core. That includes efforts to tied federal grant funding to adoption of the Common Core.
New standardized tests linked to Common Core will “probably not” be superior to existing tests, but Common Core puts more pressure on North Carolina’s teachers, Stoops said.
Teachers and students are not necessarily ready to deal with the new standards, he said. “A recent survey suggested 76 percent of teachers believed students were not prepared to master the Common Core standards,” Stoops explained. “In addition, 75 percent of classroom teachers believe that their state is not prepared to implement the Common Core. About 71 percent of them observed that their own school district is not prepared to implement the Common Core.”
Neither teachers nor principals are confident that Common Core standards will raise student achievement, Stoops said. “In one national survey, only 17 percent of teachers and 22 percent of principals report that they are very confident that the Common Core will improve student achievement,” he said. “Similarly, only 20 percent of teachers and 24 percent of principals believe the Common Core will prepare students better for college and the work force.”
Despite the concerns, Common Core standards have enjoyed bipartisan political support, Stoops said. The first step toward withdrawing North Carolina from the Common Core would require “a change of heart.” Withdrawal also would require a change in state law, he said.
Legislators in eight other states, including neighboring Georgia, have filed bills to withdraw their states from the Common Core. North Carolina still has time to take that step if lawmakers decide that the state needs to change course, Stoops said.
“As people learn more about the Common Core standards, they grow more concerned,” he said. “This report should give parents, taxpayers, and policymakers the basic information they need as they decide how North Carolina should approach Common Core standards moving forward.”
Dr. Terry Stoops’ Spotlight report, “35 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].