Opinion: Outside Review of Revisions to Common Core Should Happen Anyway

Opinion: A.P. Dillon  – Outside Review of Revisions to Common Core Happen Anyway

Bobbie Cavnar - NC Teacher of the Year - Common Core
Bobbie Cavnar via Gaston Cty Schools

The Common Core battle continues as NC Teacher of the Year Bobbie Cavnar invokes theatrics in his defense of the current re-write of the standards.

Yesterday in the NC State Board of Education meeting, the NC Teacher of the year defended the current Common Core rewrite, which lacks literary and historical document guidelines and examples, in what can only be described as a, ‘terrifying’ manner.

“I would be terrified if the state had a mandated reading list for me to teach. Teachers need the flexibility to meet the needs of their students. Every student is different with different needs – so is every county.” – Bobbie Cavnar, NC Teacher of the Year

This is the NC Teacher of the Year? A British Literature teacher being afraid of perhaps being told to use Shakespeare or Chaucer? Good Lord.

What has Cavnar been using to teach, one has to wonder, since the NC Department of Public Instruction (DPI) has routinely produced suggested reading lists and the legislature has mandated certain foundational documents be covered?

Mr. Cavnar, the idea that certain documents or pieces of literature be covered is not ‘terrifying’, it is expected, and, frankly, speaking personally as a parent, I would demand it.

Why this dramatic push-back from the “Teacher of the Year?”  Because members of the State Board want to delay the vote on the English Language Arts revisions until an outside party can review it.

What outside party?  None other than Dr. Sandra Stotsky — former member of the Common Core Validation Committee and author of the best English Language Arts standards to be produced in the nation.

Dr. Stotsky has offered to take a look at the revisions – pro-bono.  This idea has thrown pro-Common Core disciples into a ‘terrified’ tizzy.

Cavnar’s not the only one ‘terrified’. So is the NC Chamber of Common Core.  Did I say Chamber of Common Core? Sorry, I meant the Chamber of Commerce.  Same thing really, though.

Gary Salamido, who has been a faithful servant of Common Core over the last 7 years, has apparently let it be known that he thinks that no outside review is necessary.

According to an article at the News and Observer, Salamido thinks NC should go forward with the revisions that NC DPI has made, which amounts to a watered down version and arguably worse version of Common Core.

Of course, Salamido is on board with this set of revisions. It’s similar to what he, the Chamber of Commerce and their paid lobbyist were pushing in 2015.

Can We Delay Rearranging Deck Chairs?

State Superintendent Johnson is in. The Lt. Governor is in. Vice Chair Collins and Board member Oxendine are in.   Excerpt from the News and Observer:

Board Vice Chairman A.L. Collins said Wednesday that an outside review of the new standards could help avoid “a very political, ugly tug-of-war.”

“It seems to me we need to make sure we are addressing the potential problems,” he said.

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest and state Superintendent Mark Johnson, both elected Republicans, also want an outside review. Johnson said he had “a number of third parties” in mind, but he would not identify them during the public meeting. “Let’s delay the vote tomorrow,” he said. “I want to collaborate with others to make sure we’re doing the best we can.”

Board member Eric Davis emphasized the months the state Department of Public Instruction spent conducting surveys, collecting comments from parents and teachers, and revising their drafts, suggesting the department had done well seeking input.

Chairman Bill Cobey said during a break that the board welcomes “anybody commenting,” but he intended to have the board vote Thursday.

What Cobey’s statement is basically saying, ‘you can comment, but we’re going to proceed with rearranging the deck chairs anyway’.

Chairman Bill Cobey
State Board of Education Meeting in 2016

Why are Cavnar, Cobey, Salamido and, apparently Board member Eric Davis, so opposed to making sure North Carolina has the best standards in place they can possibly have?

I’ll tell you why:

Because a review of DPI’s current revisions will reveal that the standards are not the best and are indeed lacking.

As previously reported, Dr. Stotsky noted that from what she had seen of the recent changes, that there is next to no literary or historical content anywhere in the revisions.

Stotsky said some of the standards were actually weaker than the Common Core ones. It was unclear from the high school revisions of the ELA if North Carolina students will read high school level texts in high school. An example was given by Stotsky:

RI.9-10.9 Analyze seminal U.S. documents of historical and literary significance (e.g., Washington’s Farewell Address, the Gettysburg Address, Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms speech, King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail”), including how they address related themes and concepts.

RI.9-10.9 Analyze influential documents of historical and literary significance, including how they address related themes and concepts.

The question is now: Do Cobey, Cavnar, Davis and DPI believe that most kids in high school are capable of reading our seminal documents?  The answer to that question, right now, appears to be yes.

All of this is now moot.   The Board voted – despite protest.

It bears mentioning the North Carolina reviews it standards ever five years.

Chairman Cobey said once during one of the Academic Standards Review Commission meeting that he wanted to make sure that ‘North Carolina has the best standards in the nation’.  Senator Tillman made a similar comment a few times as well.

Congratulations gentleman, for another 5 years North Carolina kids will be getting a sub-par, developmentally inappropriate education via a warmed over version Common Core.

I hope someone has the decency and sense to make the outside review happen anyway. Perhaps the next generation of North Carolina kids can be saved.

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