04/16/13 — School board: Common Core could be concern

View Archive

School board: Common Core could be concern

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on April 16, 2013 1:46 PM

The Wayne County Board of Education has mixed reviews about the latest round of guidelines of how students will be taught English and math.

The first hour of its three-hour meeting Monday night was spent debating the merits of the Common Core State Standards and Essential Standards.

Dr. Sandra McCullen, associate superintendent for curriculum and instruction, discussed the common core, which focuses on learning expectations, adopted by the state school board in June 2010. The district has been training teachers toward the N.C. Standard Course of Study for the past five years, she said.

Prior to her presentation, board members weighed in with their thoughts on the requirements.

Board Chairman John Grantham questioned the new regulations, which primarily focus on math and reading.

Calling it a "rush job" which could prove costly to implement, he pointed out that 45 states had initially voted to adopt the common core standards and five chose not to implement them. Since its inception, he said, eight of the original proponents are now trying to also trying to opt out.

He said he has done his own research and is concerned about the standards, suggesting that all schools would be judged by the same "national mediocre benchmark."

"The main thing I'm trying to do is have people look into it and make your own evaluations," he told fellow board members. "This is going to affect everybody, even home-schools. Eventually that's going to dictate if you want a home-schooler to get into college, what you teach them at home, so everybody's got a stake in it."

Board member Arnold Flowers said he also had questions. One concern he frequently hears is the added pressure the standards impose on educators.

"Some teachers are saying that they feel like a first-year teacher all over again," he said.

Flowers mentioned efforts to introduce legislation that would establish a committee to study the common core and its impact on education in the state, which he favors.

Grantham said part of the rationale for the nationwide movement to adopt common core was to create consistency -- students moving from state to state would have the same standards. But he said the merits of doing that are not high enough to warrant the change, suggesting that only about 2 percent of students actually transfer from state to state, leaving 98 percent "that really don't have a problem as it is."

Board member Rick Pridgen said he still needs more information before coming to a decision.

"It's the standard we're having to go by right now," he said. "It's a learning process. I have done a lot of reading about common core but I haven't done enough."

The common core is still in its infancy, Pridgen said, and not enough is known about whether or not it will prove productive.

"Any time we have a new program come along, we're going to have some concerns," he said.

"Every time that education gets new programs, there are a lot of questions that we can't answer," said board member Eddie Radford, a retired administrator, recalling predecessors to the common core -- the state's ABCs accountability model and federal No Child Left Behind being two recent examples.

"What else are we going to encounter?" asked board member Chris West. "I have a problem with putting something in place ....

"If it's all tied together as one common core, is the common core going to be the totality of what they roll out? I just don't understand why they're so quick."

Veteran school board member Thelma Smith said she believed in taking a common sense approach to the issue.

"No Child Left Behind was most impressive but that's not possible to have every child read whatever it is by the time they finish high school. It's impossible," she said. "These children are not products. They're human beings and when each administrator comes in, they want to have something that sounds real good.

"I would just say use your good, common sense and if it doesn't fit, don't wear it."

Grantham agreed with the sentiment, but still suggested everyone -- from the board to staff, teachers and administrators -- do their own research.

"You don't have to be a sailor to realize you can't drive a car in the ocean," he said. "Take a look at it yourself. You're in the driver's seat and when you're in the driver's seat, drive the car."