Last year in North Carolina the Academic Standards Review Commission (ASRC) was charged with replacing the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The North Carolina General Assembly voted to replace Common Core, and the ASRC was expected to come up with alternatives to Common Core. Unfortunately, that did not happen. Although the findings in the ASRC draft report of the commission (located here) clearly indicated that the standards needed to be replaced– such issues as age-appropriate materials, lack of teaching materials, and excessive testing were mentioned–the ASRC simply ignored their own experts and did not replace CCSS. So what are the results of Common Core in North Carolina, and what are the alternatives? The results are awful, and there is one vetted and time-tested alternative.
The test data from the ACT tells the story of Common Core in North Carolina:
Beginning in 2011, graduating seniors across the nation averaged a 20.6 in English, 21.1 in math, 21.3 in reading, 20.9 in science, and 21.1 composite. By comparison, North Carolina students averaged a 21.2 in English, 22.4 in math, 22.2 in reading, 21.4 in science, and 21.9 composite. Obviously, North Carolina scored well among the states and things were looking up.
However, since 2011, things have gone downhill. 2015 graduating classes looked like this: (NC/National) 17.6/20.4 for English, 19.5/20.8 for math, 19.2/21.4 for reading, 19.0/20.9 for science, and 19.0/21.0 composite. Moreover, this is not just a dip in the scores. They have been steadily declining during the five-year period. Obviously, something is amiss or, at least, not what is being claimed. While National scores have remained fairly flat, North Carolina’s have tanked.
Since the focus is on readiness for careers and college, other data is included in the ACT report for who is ready for what. Some of the key pieces of data in the report are the “benchmarks” which depict the level at which a student should perform in order to succeed at a specific career or a given college. The benchmarks are listed for each of the subject fields tested, i.e. English, math, reading, science, and composite. Benchmarks are useful for selecting a particular college, getting scholarships, determining career fields, etc.
For the graduating classes of 2015, a full twenty-five percent of North Carolina students scored a benchmark in English of 0 to 12 (range of 1-36). Another seventeen percent scored 13 to 15, and twenty percent scored 16-19. This means that a total of sixty-two percent of our students in 2015 scored benchmarks that might, repeat might, get them into a community college. Only nine percent scored in the top two brackets, 28 to 32 and 33 to 36. For the math benchmark, the figure was sixty percent in the lower three brackets, reading was fifty-five percent, and science was fifty-four percent. In order to succeed at any of the major North Carolina Universities and colleges, current ACT benchmarks are NC State 24 to 29, UNC 21 to 26, Wake Forest 29 to 31, Campbell 17 to 27, East Carolina University 20 to 24, and UNC-Charlotte 20 to 25. If a student with an ACT of 19 were to apply to UNC-Charlotte, it is estimated that they have a fifty-five percent chance of success while the same score would only have a twenty-three percent chance at Campbell University.
Along with the falling scores, there has been little to no progress in closing the learning and achievement gaps for minority students. Students of color are worse off with the CCSS standards, not better. Their parents ought to be outraged at the lack of appropriate content.
As for “career ready” there is a “World of Work” map for careers that supposedly matches ACT scores with various occupations. Given the narrow aperture that the rest of the ACT/CRS process uses, one can only imagine how well the map works in determining a career for students not planning to attend college. What ever happened to guidance counselors working with parents to help choose a career?
In conclusion, our public education system imposes a set of standards on its students and their parents, has designed a testing apparatus totally aligned with the standards and developed to supposedly reveal what career students should consider or what college to attend, and touts this as an improvement. However, data gathered and reported by its own testing shows the results to be dismal and failing. How can the Chamber of Commerce and other interested parties believe that they will be getting better employees for their members? How can colleges believe that their incoming classes of students will not require more remedial classes?
So why in the world are we stuck with Common Core? There is a lot of serious money behind Common Core. Bill Gates is one of the primary forces behind Common Core. As I have previously reported: On September 21, 2013, (according to The Washington Post), Bill Gates stated, “It would be great if our education stuff worked, but that we won’t know for probably a decade.” It is becoming very obvious that it doesn’t work! Just for the record,The Daily Caller reported in March 2014 that the children of Bill Gates attend a private school that does not use Common Core standards. Common Core for thee, but not for me.
So what is the alternative? The North Carolina Education Coalition has created the North Carolina Education Plan. It is based on two vetted and very successful standards in two different states–Mathematics based on the Minnesota Standards (which the draft resolution of the ASRC recommended) and English Language Arts (ELA) is based on the Massachusetts standards as developed by Sandra Stotsy, credited with developing one of the country’s strongest K-12 ELA programs in Massachusetts.
Common sense would dictate replacing something that has failed with something that has been successful. Unfortunately, in the North Carolina academic hierarchy, money has become more important than educating our children. Many of the people in charge of education in North Carolina have a vested monetary interest in Common Core. We will not get rid of Common Core unless parents stand up and demand that public education in this state be controlled by common sense rather than money. We also need to replace any people involved in education in North Carolina who will make a profit through the implementation of Common Core.