News: CJ Exclusives

Senate Set To Adopt Replacement For Common Core Standards

Commission would decide standards appropriate for N.C. students

While House and Senate leaders remain at odds over the state’s $21.1 billion General Fund budget and teacher pay increases, they have found common ground on another subject — replacing Common Core standards.

The conference committee report on Senate Bill 812, the Common Core repeal bill, looks a lot like the version passed last month by the Senate. While it calls for replacing the Common Core standards, it allows an 11-member advisory academic standards commission to recommend rigorous and age-appropriate standards for North Carolina schools. The bill would not rule out Common Core standards if the commission deemed them appropriate.

The House version of the bill would have established a commission with two fewer members. And it would have banned all Common Core standards.

The bill is on today’s Senate calendar for a vote. The House is likely to take up the measure next week when it returns to Raleigh.

Common Core State Standards are curriculum and instructional standards in English language arts and mathematics for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. The National Governors Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and Achieve Inc. developed them.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has funded much of the project. Forty-five states have adopted the Common Core standards. In June 2010, North Carolina became one of the earlier states to adopt them.

While the federal government did not develop the standards, Washington has helped pay for Common Core tests. The U.S. Department of Education has meshed Common Core standards within the Obama administration’s Race to the Top program.

Part of the reasoning behind the State Board of Education’s decision to adopt the Common Core standards was to improve the state’s chances at receiving money from the Race to the Top program.

Rep. Craig Horn, R-Union, who sponsored the House version of the bill, said he went along with the Senate’s changes because of the support the bill had received from the business community and educators.

“The goal was to keep the bill as short as we could, to give the commission the flexibility to seek out the best standards in the nation,” Horn said. “We didn’t want to take anything off the table.”

The commission is allowed to adopt Common Core standards if the members believe they’re the best for North Carolina. “If they’re good standards, we want them,” Horn said.

Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph, said it didn’t make sense to rule out every Common Core standard. “If you say you can’t take a single standard and you take one, then you’ve broken the law,” Tillman said.

Both Tillman and Horn said that the new standards would have North Carolina fingerprints on them.

“They’ll be North Carolina standards,” Tillman said. “We’re repealing the Common Core, then it will be up to the standards commission to pick the best plan for North Carolina.”

Once the commission recommends the standards, they will go to the State Board of Education for approval.

Earlier this year, both the NC Chamber and Republican Gov. Pat McCrory had voiced support for Common Core. McCrory’s office did not respond to requests for a comment on the conference report. However, Tillman earlier said that the Senate plan was acceptable to McCrory.

Lew Ebert, president of the NC Chamber, issued a statement in support of the conference report.

“The North Carolina Chamber is encouraged that our state will maintain higher standards that will be revised to best meet the unique needs of our students as they prepare for college, career, and life,” Ebert said. “This is a significant step toward a reasonable approach to make standards higher and it brings greater predictability and certainty for the education and the business communities as we work together to assert North Carolina as a leader in high academic standards and work force development.”

Horn said the final plan included principles sought by House members, including clarifying that Common Core standards would be replaced with standards set by North Carolina officials. He said the House also wanted to make sure that the standards commission included parents, principals, superintendents, and other education experts.

Common Core standards have become controversial among some education and state leaders, suggesting that some standards aren’t rigorous enough. Others have said the math standards aren’t appropriate for measuring student performance in lower grades. Common Core standards also have faced criticism from some who say they allow too much federal micromanagement of local schools.

Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Indiana have enacted laws repealing Common Core standards.

Barry Smith (@Barry_Smith) is an associate editor of Carolina Journal.