Publisher's note: Agenda 2012 is the John Locke Foundation's charge to make known their wise political agenda to voters, and most especially candidates, with our fifth installment being the "Standards and Curriculum," found in the Education section, and written by Dr. Terry Stoops, Director of Education Studies at the John Locke Foundation. The first installment was the "Introduction" published here.
In 2012, the N.C. Department of Public Instruction will introduce new curricula and standards for all public school students. This will include the new North Carolina Essential Standards for social studies, science, arts education, and world languages, among others. In addition, the state will be one of 46 states and the District of Columbia to implement the national Common Core State Standards in K-12 mathematics and/or English Language Arts.
Of course, the burden of implementing completely new standards and curricula will fall on North Carolina's teachers. They must transform a catalog of new material into sound classroom instruction. Research suggests that the transition will be challenging for teachers and possibly disadvantageous for students.
In 2008, the State Board of Education (SBE) directed the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (DPI) to "overhaul the PreK-12 Standard Course of Study (SCOS) to focus on essential standards in order to narrow and deepen the state's curriculum." In response, DPI initiated the Accountability and Curriculum Reform Effort (ACRE). In 2012, DPI will introduce the North Carolina Essential Standards, ACRE's revision of the Standard Course of Study.
The North Carolina Essential Standards revised state science, social studies, information and technology, world languages, arts education, occupational course of study, healthful living, and guidance standards.
In June 2010, the State Board of Education unanimously approved the adoption of national Common Core State Standards for English and math.
Two independent organizations, the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, developed the Common Core standards. The U.S. Department of Education later added financial incentives and other advantages for states that adopted the standards.
Over the past two years, the U.S. Department of Education has been one of the leading proponents of the Common Core.
Adopting the Common Core standards may be costly for North Carolina taxpayers. Researchers from the Pioneer Institute, the American Principles Project, and the Pacific Research Institute estimate that implementation of Common Core standards in English and math will cost participating states $15.8 billion over seven years. They concluded that North Carolina will spend $200 million for professional development, $85 million for textbooks and materials, and $240 million for technology over the next seven years to implement the Common Core standards.
That is a total of $525 million or an average of $75 million per year.
Educational researchers disagree on the quality of the Common Core State Standards. In general, they have been much more critical of the Common Core math standards than the English standards.
1. The State Board of Education (SBE) should reconsider adoption of the Common Core standards.
North Carolina's adoption of the Common Core State Standards is a testament to the growing influence of the federal government in matters that traditionally (and constitutionally) have been the responsibility of state and local governments.
2. The N.C. General Assembly should approve legislation that protects North Carolina's public school curriculum and standards from undue federal intrusion.
3. The N.C. Department of Public Instruction (DPI) should report all costs associated with implementing Common Core standards and North Carolina Essential Standards.
Further, NC DPI should make this information readily available on their website.
4. N.C. DPI should contract an independent entity to evaluate the quality of the new standards and curricula.
At a minimum, these studies should answer three basic questions. First, are the new standards an improvement over the discarded ones? Second, are the revised standards of equal or greater quality than the curricula and standards utilized by the highest performing states and nations? Third, is there a significant relationship between student performance and North Carolina's new curricula and learning standards?
Analyst: Dr. Terry Stoops
Director of Education Studies