By Bob Luebke
By a vote of 8 to 4, the State Board of Education (SBE) on April 6 approved the revised English Language Arts (ELA) standards. While many believe they are an improvement over the previous standards, when all is said and done they are still Common Core Lite Standards.
Four SBE members voted against the motion to adopt: Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, Olivia Oxendine, Todd Chasteen and Amy White. White expressed her reservations about the rigor of the standards and referenced the disappointing percentage of students performing at grade level on state tests.
SBE Vice Chair Buddy Collins, who said he supported the revised standards because they represent an improvement over the previous standards, urged the board to seek an independent evaluation of the English standards to show they are rigorous, age-appropriate and aligned to North Carolina’s college and career goals.
Eric Davis, an SBE member who with Oxendine chaired the subcommittee that revised the ELA standards, said he would “be glad to participate in that process.”
That’s a good sign, as was State Superintendent Mark Johnson’s comment that he would support the creation of a subcommittee to direct how the standards might be independently evaluated.
While it’s true conservatives failed to stop adoption, we should work hard to solicit an independent review of ELA standards. The dirty little secret is that the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) represents a “one-stop” center for all things educational in North Carolina, and that’s not good. DPI – with input from others stakeholders around the state – developed the standards; DPI developed the testing apparatus; and DPI will largely control the evaluation process.
This is highly unusual and not desirable for many reasons, foremost of which is there is no independent assessment or check on quality. An outside independent review would address these concerns. It’s a step that is conspicuously missing from the current process.
If the standards are as good as supporters say they are, SBE will hear it from outside sources. If not, SBE will know what needs to be changed. Peer review is a missing piece on this entire process. And it’s a piece that good organizations should embrace.
For those who oppose an independent review, I’d simply ask: Why?
Although no motion was made at the April 6 meeting for an independent review, the argument was made and key people are on record for supporting such an effort. That’s progress.
SBE will vote in a couple of months to approve new math standards – which again look amazingly similar to Common Core standards. Parents, teachers and other members of the public who wish to comment on the new standards can do so online at tinyurl.com/NC-Math-Standards. Comments will be taken until April 20.