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Amid Common Core debate, North Carolina opts to tweak, not abandon, standards

Lawmakers in North Carolina agreed Wednesday to come up with an alternative to the Common Core State Standards in math and reading.

Sort of.

The House and Senate agreed to a compromise that creates a commission to reexamine the Common Core standards and find ways to improve on them.

North Carolina adopted the standards in 2010 and has been rolling them out in classrooms across the state.

But growing political pressure from critics — particularly among conservatives — fueled an effort in the North Carolina House to try to ditch the standards entirely. In the end, agreement was reached on a plan to reconsider them.

Gov. Pat McCrory (R) said in a statement he will sign the bill “because it does not change any of North Carolina’s education standards. It does initiate a much-needed, comprehensive and thorough review of standards. No standards will change without the approval of the State Board of Education. I especially look forward to the recommendations that will address testing issues so we can measure what matters most for our teachers, parents and students.”

Public schools in North Carolina will keep using the Common Core until new standards are written.

“This is not a repeal of the Common Core State Standards,” said Gary Salamido, vice president of government affairs for the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce, a major backer of the standards. “While the standards are looked at through an open process, they’ll be revised, and we’ll have an opportunity to put in place even higher standards.”

In all likelihood, the commission — whose members will be appointed by the governor, legislature and state board of education — will keep some elements of the Common Core, Salamido said.

The Common Core State Standards, which were created by a bipartisan group of governors and state education officials, lay out the skills and knowledge that students should possess by the end of each grade from K-12. The standards were written with financial backing from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The Common Core is not a curriculum; states and school districts decide how to teach the standards and which curricular materials to use.

The state leaders who devised the standards argued that the United States needs more consistency across state borders so that a third-grader in Maine learns the same skills as a third-grader in Hawaii, and that a high school diploma has the same value across the country.

By 2010, 45 states and the District of Columbia had adopted the standards, which Republican and Democratic governors supported. The Obama administration also backed the standards, offering financial incentives through its Race to the Top competition to states that adopted “college and career ready” standards.

As states were implementing the standards, critics — including progressives on the left and conservatives on the right — began decrying the Common Core.

In Republican circles, the Common Core has become a wedge issue dividing the establishment wing from those who identify as tea party members.

Three of the original group of 45 states and the District — Oklahoma, South Carolina and Indiana — have pulled out of the Common Core in recent months.

On Tuesday, Oklahoma’s Supreme Court reaffirmed the legislature’s decision to repeal the Common Core. A group of parents, teachers and members of the state board of education had petitioned the court, claiming that the legislature had overstepped its authority in repealing the Common Core. But in an 8-to-1 decision, the court sided with the legislature.

Meanwhile, in Louisiana, Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), is feuding with his state’s board of education and the superintendent of education over his intent to drop the Common Core standards. Jindal, a possible 2016 presidential contender, went from supporter to opponent of the Common Core as the anti-Common Core rhetoric among conservatives heated up. But Louisiana’s board of education insists that Jindal does not have the legal authority to unilaterally withdraw the state from the standards.

Lyndsey Layton has been covering national education since 2011, writing about everything from parent trigger laws to poverty’s impact on education to the shifting politics of school reform.



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