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High standards and Common Core’s end

The nationwide Common Core initiative seems at risk of death by a thousand cuts. In 2010, 45 states and the District of Columbia had signed on to developing common, baseline high standards for reading and math. Now, largely for political reasons, lawmakers in 27 states have proposed rolling back Common Core standards. Three – South Carolina, Oklahoma and Indiana – have already repealed Common Core.

The “common” in Common Core is evaporating. With that goes the ability of states to compare student performance based on state assessments. That’s a big loss.

Unwisely, North Carolina joined the repeal movement last week when the legislature passed a bill requiring a comprehensive review and rewrite of standards. The bill keeps in place Common Core until the revised standards are in place.

Gov. Pat McCrory, who had been a vocal supporter of Common Core, says he will sign the bill, rationalizing his change of heart by saying “this bill does not change any of North Carolina’s education standards. It does initiate a much-needed, comprehensive and thorough review of standards. No standards will change without the approval of the State Board of Education.”

That is true – except that the review and recommendations will come from a new “Academic Standards Review Commission,” largely made up of political appointees who aren’t mandated to have any education knowledge at all. The 11 members will include four appointed by the Senate President Pro Tem, four by the Speaker of the House , one by the governor and two members of the state board of education. Such a commission does not inspire faith that the process will be focused on high educational quality, not politics and ideology.

The House and Senate did work out a compromise that allows the state to potentially use some materials from the Common Core program that are effective. That’s a saner approach than Oklahoma has taken where new state standards can look nothing like Common Core. That nonsensical idea wastes money already invested as well as years of curriculum and teacher preparation.

This unnecessary N.C. rewrite still comes with a cost. But, as Vance County Superintendent Ronald Gregory notes, N.C. legislatures – Republican or Democrat – are pretty adept at seeking but not keeping high education standards in place: “North Carolina has not completed any programs or course of study that it has started,” he said. “We did not complete the Basic Education Program (BEP). We did not complete the North Carolina Standard Course of Study, and now, we are not completing the Common Core. We should stop using children’s education as pawns for whichever legislative group is in power.”

He’s right.

Complaints about Common Core most often centered on testing, funding and corporate and federal involvement, not the rigor of standards proposed. So it’s frustrating that the rigorous standards are being rejected.

Still, such standards to ensure all students are career or college ready remain a worthwhile goal. Politics may have driven a stake into the heart of Common Core, but we, the public, must hold lawmakers to their pledge to keep high standards in place. We all benefit if that vow is kept; we all lose if it is not.

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