State legislators are trying to move public schools away from the Common Core, but local educators said they will continue to keep students first.
Lenora Locklear, instructional programs director for Clinton City Schools, said North Carolina has spent time and money in Common Core for the past two years. She believes educating and training has been productive and enlightening for learning.
The Common Core is a set of academic standards in mathematics, English, language arts and literacy. It was created with a purpose to ensure that students graduate from high school with skills and knowledge to be successful in college or the job market.
“I feel the Common Core standards are about good teaching and student learning,” Locklear said. “Whether we are implementing national or state standards, our goal should be what and how we teach with continuity and consistency for all our students, taking a look within each school system, each school and each classroom.”
Recently, North Carolina’s House and a Senate committee approved bills related to the issue. Common Core is used in many states, but a few states are questioning if it’s useful.
The House measure, which is similar to the Senate’s, would require the State Board of Education to stop further development of the standards for schools and create a commission to recommend changes to the board. During this timeframe, Common Core would remain in place, along with related testing and curriculum.
The House measure was approved 78-39, with three Democrats joining all Republicans voting in support of the bill.
According to The Associated Press, the House wants a nine-member permanent standards commission, the Senate version — which cleared the chamber’s education committee — shuts down an 11-member commission by the end of next year. The two chambers ultimately will have to work out their differences to get a final bill to Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican who’s spoken out for the standards.
The standards were developed in 2009 by the National Governors Association and a council representing state school chiefs.
Like Locklear, Sampson County Schools superintendent Dr. Eric Bracy supports Common Core.
“I think the standards need some minor adjustments and tweaks, but I don’t think they need to be thrown out all together,” Bracy said.
Locklear and Bracy both indicated that teachers have learned to work together and collaborating to make Common Core successful and to meet the individual needs of students.
“We’ve come real far,” Bracy said.
Bracy hopes whatever adjustments are made will benefit both students and teachers.
“I like that the standards are more rigorous than the standards we’ve used previously,” he said.
Critics of Common Core said the state leaned towards the initiative to receive funding for the Race to the Top awards. North Carolina received nearly $400 million in grants. According to an Associated Press article, Rep. Michael Speciale, R-Onslow, said the bill is going to get rid of a program the state should have never accepted in the first place.
“For a big check, we sold our kids’ education,” Speciale said.
“In education, there always seems to be a ‘house divided’ in how we do things, mainly because of political agendas; however, losing sight of what’s best for our students,’” Locklear said. “Whatever positive role standards might play inwhat our schools should teach and students should learn has been repeatedly undermined by suspect political agendas and commercial interests.”
Legislators opposed to the recent bill believe it could lead to lower standards for students competing for jobs based on their skills.
She said Common Core has come into play, along with additional demands on educators.
“Teachers are discouraged with the excessive amount of tests and what the results will look like,” Locklear said. “A lot of change, too fast, in itself can be a downfall of education.”
Locklear believes students across the United States have the same learning needs.
“No matter what standards we are teaching, I will continue to encourage teachers and administrators to look at how we are teaching students and how we are preparing them for success once they enter college and the work place,” Locklear said. “As we teach the mandated standards, let’s continue to provide a progression of rigorous learning opportunities that encourage students to think beyond facts and memorization and not to lose sight of each student’s needs in the process.”
Currently, the North Carolina Chamber and the N.C. Association of Educators opposes the removal of Common Core.
Chase Jordan can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext.136. Follow us on Twitter@SampsonInd.