Education:

Thursday, Lt. Governor Dan Forest gave testimony in front of the NCGA LRC Study Committee on Common Core State Standards in North Carolina, warning that a one-size fits all approach to educational standards is just plain un-American and just plain won't work in our diverse country. Check out the video of the testimony and the written transcript. Share it with your friends.


In the end it will not be standards that change our education system, but a wholesale, fundamental shift in the way we educate. Mastery Based learning, removing excessive, high-stakes testing and unnecessary mandates from our classrooms, treating our teachers like professionals, customizing curriculum to our students gifts, needs and desires. These are things that are going to transform education. Let's put standards in their proper place and then get down to business," said Forest. 

This is a summary of the public-hearing on Common Core by the Legislative Committee on 12/17/13 by Daine Rufino.

 The clear, take-home message from the public hearing in front of the NCGA Common Core Study Group can be summarized as follows:

(1)  There is no dispute that standards are a good thing to guide an education curriculum and standards should be rigorous.

(2)  North Carolina itself recognized that some reform of its standards was necessary and had taken positive steps towards that goal. In fact, it had written standards (state-generated standards) that were on the same track as Common Core.  That is, the standards were written more clearly and better aligned to grade level.

(3)  If North Carolina already recognized the need for better standards and was at the point of almost producing state-derived and robust education standards, why was there the need to adopt the Common Core Standards?

(4)  It appears that the NC Board of Education only adopted the Standards in order to receive federal funding through the “Race to the Top” grant contest.  (Although this was not addressed)

(5)  Not one of the presenters, including the very articulate and likeable Dr. June Atkinson, was able to explain why exactly North Carolina needed to adopt Common Core.

(6)  North Carolina legislators are getting a clear message from their constituent districts and that message – from both parents and educators – is that they are NOT happy with Common Core !

(7)  North Carolina legislators appear not to be convinced that Common Core is the solution to the state’s education problems.  They appear to be adopting the mindset that the NC Board of Education can realize their education goals using means other than Common Core.

(8)  North Carolina legislators appear to be fairly hostile to the notion that the state needs to adopt a top-down, one-size-fits-all education initiative endorsed and pushed by the federal government when it has the resources and the sovereign obligation to address the education of its citizens.


The truth is that Common Core is opposed by scholars at several leading think tanks on both the right and left, including the Heritage Foundation, the Hoover Institution, the Brookings Institution and my own Cato Institute. Objective research conducted by many noteworthy organizations, including those above, and concerned parents and educators, has shown there is essentially no meaningful evidence that national standards lead to superior educational outcomes.  Hoover Institution senior fellow Eric Hanushek, a well-known education economist and supporter of standards-based reform, has reached a similar conclusion about likely Common Core impotence. He wrote: “We currently have very different standards across states, and experience from the states provides little support for the argument that simply declaring more clearly what we want children to learn will have much impact.”

Tom Loveless, a scholar at the center-left Brookings Institution, reached a similar conclusion. In 2012, Loveless demonstrated that moving to national standards would have little, if any, positive effect because the performance of states has had very little connection to the rigor or quality of their standards. There is also much greater achievement variation within states than among them. Loveless argues that Common Core is not a cure for America’s education woes. He wrote: “Don’t let the ferocity of the oncoming debate fool you. The empirical evidence suggests that the Common Core will have little effect on American students’ achievement. The nation will have to look elsewhere for ways to improve its schools.”

Opposition is not limited to those on the right or center-right.  On the far left, education historian and expert Diane Ravitch has been a vocal opponent from the start.  She strongly emphasizes that Common Core is untested, was assembled behind closed doors, and was essentially foisted on schools by tying it to the federal ‘Race to the Top’ funding contest.’

The hope is that the next three public meetings will address the criticisms and possible alternative solutions to the perceived problems with the education system in North Carolina.  I use the term “perceived problems with our education system” because not once has any legislator or education expert addressed the heart of the problem.  Forbes Magazine may have summed it up best:  “A lot of venture capital is being poured into ‘reforming’ American education. However, the variable invariably overlooked by the imaginative and passionate ed-tech crowd is human nature itself. Until there is a sea change in the self and institutional preservationist mindset undergirding our educational system, no amount of investment will significantly improve the college or career readiness of America’s youth.”

Special thanks to NC Senator Jerry Tillman for acting and speaking like a state representative should!!  Why can’t more take a stronger stand for our state and for our education system?
References:

“60 Questions about Common Core (Answers for North Carolinians),” John Locke Foundation, September 17, 2013.  http://www.johnlocke.org/acrobat/spotlights/Spotlight443CommonCoreII.pdf

Report: North Carolina’s ‘Race to the Top’ Funding.  http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop/performance/north-carolina-year-2.pdf

Neal McClusky, “All Common Core Critics Aren’t Extreme.”   http://www.jsonline.com/news/opinion/all-common-core-critics-arent-extreme-b99136143z1-231497111.html




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