A Dissenting Opinion From The Co-Chairman Of The North Carolina Academic Standards Review Commission

CO-CHAIR OF THE NC STANDARDS COMMISSION DISSENTS ON FINAL MATH RECOMMENDATIONS

Wilmington, NC, December 30, 2015 – In an open letter to her fellow commission members, Tammy Covil expressed dissatisfaction with the commission’s final vote on recommendations she states will result in nothing more than a rebrand of Common Core.

Ms. Covil serves as co-chair of the North Carolina Academic Standards Review Commission. The commission was formed by the General Assembly in 2014 to review and recommend replacement for the state’s K-12 math and English language arts standards, formerly known as Common Core. Their final report is due to be released today.

“Having spent so much time and energy on such an important endeavor, I felt it necessary to recount the events that transpired over the past 15 months. Sadly, much of what occurred behind the scenes undermined our final recommendations,” Mrs. Covil stated. “Although I am disappointed that we were unable to complete our charge to the degree that the legislature had intended, I am proud of the work that went into vetting the standards. There is more than enough evidence in our findings to warrant replacement of the math standards.”

The following is the text of Mrs. Covil’s dissenting opinion:

Commission Members,

As co-chair of the North Carolina Academic Standards Review Commission, I wish to inform you that I will not endorse this commission’s final recommendations.

Although one would have expected the overwhelming evidence of Common Core’s shortcomings to have convinced even the most biased individual toward the obvious conclusion of replacement, it became clear to me long before the final vote that many of the appointees had no intention of producing substantive changes to North Carolina’s academic standards.

The General Assembly appointed us to act in good faith on their legislative mandate to repeal and replace Common Core. To say that many of you disregarded your duty as an appointed member is an understatement. Some of you not only snubbed this obligation, you appeared to be actively working against it.

Over the past fifteen months, this commission entertained testimony from a multitude of education stakeholders, most notably two highly regarded experts in the field of standards development and a child brain development specialist. These experts offered compelling evidence that exposed the developmental inappropriateness and academic inefficiencies of Common Core. They provided detailed examples and cited comprehensive research to support their claims. Most of this testimony confirmed the North Carolina commission’s findings. Sentiments expressed by classroom teachers through multiple feedback opportunities and survey data further cemented the need for standards replacement.

In contrast, the education non-profits and lobby groups that were insistent upon coming before the commission to extoll the virtues of Common Core offered little more than vague platitudes, regurgitated talking points, and skewed data. Many of them failed to grasp the difference between standards and curriculum. Nor did they understand that rigor is delivered through instruction, not a standard.

What was evident in their testimony, however, was the extreme desire to protect Common Core at all costs. As was quickly determined, this was all being driven by the expectation of financial gain; one that only a nationalized curriculum could generate. Unfortunately in education, money tends to cloud sound policy decisions.

Nonetheless, their agendas and biases were exposed, yet summarily ignored.

Perhaps the most revealing aspect of this entire exercise was exhibited in the unwarranted and vicious attack on Dr. Scheick and his math group, most of whom possess more individual teaching experience than those who wrote the Common Core math standards combined. The fact that certain commission members waited until the final meeting to reveal their true colors is evidence of their intent to undermine this commission’s work from the beginning.

Even the media was stunned by this duplicitous about-face.

As you are well aware, Dr. Scheick and his team labored tirelessly for months to vet the math standards. They took to the task of ensuring that the state’s standards would meet the criteria mandated in Senate Bill 812. They did so in a very short period of time and under less than supportive circumstances. Not only were North Carolina’s math standards carefully scrutinized, they were compared to other states’ standards (both pre and post Common Core adoption), as well as other countries in order to balance global competitiveness.

How were they rewarded for their efforts? They were treated to a dog and pony show orchestrated by certain members who rarely participated during the monthly meetings, refused to offer any assistance during the math review process, and who failed to attend any of the teacher focus group meetings, despite the fact that they insisted upon them in the first place.

Impugning the character and teaching credentials of Dr. Scheick’s math team and holding the validity of their recommendations to a higher burden of proof than your own State Superintendent is the height of hypocrisy.

Interestingly enough, none of the commissioner members disputed the findings, which are quite damning, to say the least. Had anyone harbored doubt or disapproval of the findings, it was never expressed. Those of us committed to the task at hand noted this lack of cooperation and apathy.

Unlike Common Core, the Minnesota math standards have a proven track record of success. According to the math team, the Minnesota math most closely aligned with the criteria outlined by the legislature. Since it was determined in the findings that the Common Core math standards are fundamentally flawed, tweaking them would actually require more work than adopting a new set of standards and building upward. Why this was considered an unreasonable recommendation is beyond me.

Likewise, and despite the fact that 60% of high school math teachers expressed a strong desire to return to the traditional math sequence of Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II, the commission inexplicably chose to abandon this recommendation. There was virtually no professional development prior to implementation of Integrated Math, nor were there textbooks or an appropriate curriculum available to teach it. As a result, most teachers were forced to haphazardly piece together a curriculum in the hopes that it would meet course expectations. For all the talk about ensuring teacher flexibility, you could not even agree to make a recommendation that would allow teachers the option of the teaching the material in the format that they are most comfortable – So much for teacher advocacy.

Ultimately, the majority decided to punt their responsibility for offering a solution to this quagmire back to the very same department that created it. Abdicating your responsibility in this way not only implies an aversion to leadership; it indicates contempt for the educational well-being of North Carolina’s 1.5 million students and the 95,000 teachers shackled by these standards.

Rather than side with the most important stakeholders in education – teachers, parents and students – many of you predictably and shamefully cow-towed to education elitists, corporate interests and big government.

For those who so emphatically feigned concern for the costs involved in replacing Common Core with a more appropriate set of academic standards, you have failed to consider the lost funding that will result due to frustrated parents pulling their children out of the state’s public school system in protest over your decision to maintain the status quo.

Maybe that is the answer, as nothing else seems to break through the bureaucratic inertia within public education like the threat of funding cuts.

Tammy J. Covil

 

The Anti-Common Core Rally In Raleigh, North Carolina, on May 16th

This article is composed of information taken from a slightly longer article written by the Common Core Diva. Please follow the link to the article to read the Twitter posts. Here are the highlights of the article:

For the anti CCSS warriors out there, this “Riddle Me This” article’s query will be super easy to solve!! What do you get when you take a room full of concerned citizens, add a dash of sassiness, throw in lots of facts, AND create a spark of inspiration??? The answer is: the North Carolina Academic Freedom Alliance’s “Rally in Raleigh”!

I was honored to be among the featured speakers there for the event. In attendance were citizens from all over the state of NC. Thanks to social media, anti CCSS warriors across the globe were able to keep updated, as well. Some pretty big news was shared that can be vital to our movement.

I’m providing a recap of the information shared via Twitter yesterday  in the event you haven’t been able to access the social media outlet. It’s also helpful to have all your information in one article.

The Morning was Off to a Great Start:

The Rally opened with a great thinking question for those in attendance that went something like this..“Why bother fighting CCSS? We know those behind it are bigger than us.” Several vocal responses were given, but by far and away the best one was “Because it’s the right thing to do.”

Presentations:

Up first for the day was Andrea Dillon (aka ‘LadyLiberty1885′) as she gave us the NC CCSS Facts NOT from the media, but from her own research and digging through NC’s legislation and hearings. We learned things the big media sources missed! She also shared with us just how and when she got involved in the CCSS fight.

Tireless Teachers:

Also presenting to us during the Rally were 2 retired-from-full -time-teaching-but-active-in- either-substituting-in-classrooms-or-tutoring NC teachers. Their devotion to fighting CCSS is epic, their work invaluable, and their faith in the positive prospect the NC Plan (the completed set of standards that blows the doors off CCSS) is truly exciting.

The Good Doctor:

While there was a tremendous amount of great information, the MOST inspiring bit of news we all received was that Dr. Rosemary Stein officially announced her plans to run for NC State Superintendent of NC Public Schools!! Dr. Stein presented a brilliant presentation on the horrid developmental damage given to our young students, thanks to CCSS. Her expertise (along with her husband’s; he’s also in the medical profession) in not only children, but their learning gave us much insight. Her passion against Common Core was refreshing. When she said she could handle the awesome job of head of DPI, we certainly were thrilled! (During Andrea’s presentation, it was shared that the huge conflict of interest with the current head, Dr. Atkinson {she’s both head of NC DPI AND the President of CCSSO} is certainly investigation worthy.)

The Final Author of the NC Plan:

Jerry Egolf, the last of the 3 NC Plan authors also presented much information during the Rally. Like everyone who presented, his entire portion will be available on You Tube in about 1 week.

Closing:

While there is SO much more I could go on and on about, I am anxious to get this news to you! If you can’t wait for the Rally’s You Tube video debut in about 1 week (has to be edited), you can always email the North Carolina Academic Freedom Alliance main contact person, Don Watson and request them via email. They will be returned to you as files you can download, I believe. To email Don, dwatson83@att.net

One other HUGE bit of anti CCSS Warrior news is that there are currently 3 states which are also wanting to use the NC Plan!! TN, WI, and FL. Wouldn’t that be wonderful: 4 states so embedded with CCSS that they actually face an alternative superior to CCSS?!

Oh, as far as what I shared..I think you can guess some of it! There will be some surprises on the video for you from others, as well as myself.

Common Core In North Carolina

Yesterday I attended the Academic Standards Review Commission in Raleigh, North Carolina.

The Academic Standards Review Commission was established by General Assembly of North Carolina Session 2013 Session Law 2014-78 Senate Bill 812.

Section 2(c) of the Bill states:

SECTION 2.(c) The Commission shall:

(1)    Conduct a comprehensive review of all English Language Arts and Mathematics standards that were adopted by the State Board of Education under G.S. 115C-12(9c) and propose modifications to ensure that those standards meet all of the following criteria:

  1. Increase students’ level of academic achievement.
  2. Meet and reflect North Carolina’s priorities.
  3. Are age-level and developmentally appropriate.
  4. Are understandable to parents and teachers.
  5. Are among the highest standards in the nation.

(2)   As soon as practicable upon convening, and at any time prior to termination, recommend changes and modifications to these academic standards to the State Board of Education.

(3)   Recommend to the State Board of Education assessments aligned to proposed changes and modifications that would also reduce the number of high-stakes assessments administered to public schools.

(4)   Consider the impact on educators, including the need for professional development, when making any of the recommendations required in this section.

The Commission shall assemble content experts to assist it in evaluating the rigor ofacademic standards. The Commission shall also involve interested stakeholders in this processand otherwise ensure that the process is transparent.

The Commission is continuing its work, looking at Math and English standards in states such as Massachusetts (before Common Core), Texas, Minnesota, and others. As the Commission does its research, it is becoming obvious that Common Core is not the best way to improve the education of our students in this state. It was also noted by a member of the Commission that despite its claims to the contrary, Common Core does not make students either college or career ready.

It was interesting to me to hear the discussions relating to helping high school students prepare for both careers and college. It was noted that a student may work for a year or two before deciding to attend college, and that student needs to be prepared for college if he decides to attend. Not every high school student goes to college immediately after graduation, but many students do attend later.

I was impressed by the concern of the Commission for the teachers to have a chance to become familiar with any standards that might be adopted. At one point a Commission member noted that ‘we need to determine what is best for North Carolina–not rush into something as was done with Common Core.’

There will be another meeting next month as they continue their investigation.