1-16-2015 NC Academic Standards Review Commission (ASRC)

1-16-2015 NC Academic Standards Review Commission (ASRC)

The ASRC met on January 16 in the board room at the Department of Public Instruction (DPI). This is the first time that the meeting was live streamed, so hopefully there were many that listened to the meeting. Apparently there was no way for live streaming from the Administration building’s board room.

Coastal Carolina Taxpayers Association had 7 members in attendance.  Representative Michael Speciale and Rep. Larry Pittman were there as well.

The agenda and some of the presentations had been posted on the ARSC website prior to the meeting. There were several presentations that were not on the website, but we were told they will be in a few days. The agenda was reorganized as some of the commission members were on conference call and would have to leave the meeting early.

Co-Chairman, Andre Peek, opened the meeting sharing the latest news on the Commission’s present state regarding budget and staffing.  Funding has been promised by Senator Tillman. The requested budget is $250,000. Until there is a budget in place, per diem costs are being covered by Administration. Lack of funding has held the commission up in regard to bringing in content experts.

There are staffing issues that need to be addressed as well to fulfill the duties of the commission.

Mr. Peek recommended 3 positions be filled.  They are an executive administrative assistant, an editorial assistant, and a policy analyst. These positions are anticipated to be 30 hour a week positions. Job descriptions (loose) are on the ARSC web page. To date, the commission has been leveraging existing Administration staff for their needs, and it recognizes this as an imposition on Administration. The activities required to staff proposed positions would be: funding, resumes, interviews, and candidates presented to the commission prior to any job offer. The positions would be filled using the State Human Resources process. After much discussion, it was decided that the role of policy analyst could be tabled, and filled at a later date if needed. The general consensus was that a policy analyst might try to steer the commission’s direction instead of their remaining independent. They feel they are fully capable of producing their own reports. The commission agreed to staff the administrative assistant and editorial assistant positions when funding was available.

The commission had identified 3 work groups to report for the January meeting.  The subject matter for the work groups includes Developmentally Appropriate, Teacher Flexibility, and Standard Simplification.

Presentation I: Developmental Appropriateness

Ms. Oxendine and Mr. Isenhour have been working together on the Developmental Appropriateness issue that exists in Common Core. Their report was not available prior to the meeting, and no extra copies existed for the audience. They used data from the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) that addresses changes in the standards as they now exist.

It was suggested that they move back to traditional sequencing in Math, and reference was made to a chart we didn’t have access to.  Ms. Oxendine indicated that the English Language Arts standards could be rewritten easily, that concepts and principles could stay the same, that you could build in anything that was missing, and agreed to produce a set of examples by the next meeting.

Dr. Scheik mentioned 5 states that have totally re- done the math standards. They all agreed that you can’t make a decision based on one survey from Developmentally Appropriate Practice theory (D.A.P).  They need more data points and more teacher and parent input.


Ms. Oxendine indicated that there needs to be a definition of what is developmentally appropriate, there are opinions from renowned psychologists and  early child development experts such as Piaget and the D. A. P. theory.  Dr. Scheik said that none of the revised math standards resembled Common Core at all except for the order of the topics.
Presentation II: Ms. Katie Cornetto, staff attorney for DPI.

Ms. Cornetto stated that she had given a written opinion to the ARSC (not on the website, no additional copies available to us) indicating that NC had a public license that allows anyone to use it in part or in whole so long as attribution is made. There was much discussion about the actual wording in the license, which asserts this use is only agreeable if one is “supporting the Common Core States Standards Initiative” which NC is not doing anymore.

Ms. Covil was adamant that without a waiver, the state could be open to a copyright violation suit. Ms. Covil has requested a waiver from DPI superintendent, Dr. June Atkinson, who is the acting President of one of the two organizations that hold the copyright, the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). To date, there has been no compliance with this request. Co-Chair Metcalf agreed that the state needs to be legally protected. State Board of Education Chairman, Bill Cobey, said he didn’t believe the CCSSO would sue a member state, that his name would be on such a suit if it were brought, and he was willing to take that chance.Tammy Covil read a section of the public license for Common Core that mentions obtaining a waiver.  The text she read follows. “No term or provision of this license shall be deemed waived and no breach consented to unless such waiver or consent shall be in writing and signed by authorized representatives of NGA Center and CCSSO.”

Co-Chair Peek asked Ms. Cornetto to see if she could obtain such waiver.  Ms. Covil indicated that she has also asked for the contractual documentation for NC using Common Core, and was only given a copy of the Public License.

Representative Michael Speciale addressed the commission, and stated that during the Legislative Research Committee meetings, Dr. Atkinson told them that changes could not be made to the Common Core, but that an additional 15% of content could be added.

Rep. Speciale also stated that they didn’t want a rebrand; they want something that is uniquely North Carolina’s. (Paraphrasing)

Rep. Larry Pittman followed up and indicated that if there were a rebrand, there would be further legislation to fill the intent of the bill. (Paraphrasing)
Presentation III: Tammy Covil and Dr. Ted Scheik

This presentation was an updated timeline for implementation of the commission goals, and was available on the ASRC website. This timeline recommended requesting an extension of time because of the delay in funding allowing for proper completion of the charged tasks.

The focus of this presentation was in 3 areas.  They were Standards Simplification, Age/Developmental Appropriateness, and Teacher Flexibility.

Ms. Covil also reviewed the task of the commission by reading the text that follows.
“SECTION 2.(c) The Commission shall:
(1) Conduct a comprehensive review of all English Language Arts and Mathematics standards that were adopted by the State Board of Education under G.S. 115C-12(9c) and propose modifications to ensure that those standards meet all of the following criteria:
a. Increase students’ level of academic achievement.
b. Meet and reflect North Carolina’s priorities.
c. Are age-level and developmentally appropriate.
d. Are understandable to parents and teachers.
e. Are among the highest standards in the nation.

“(2) As soon as practicable upon convening, and at any time prior to termination, recommend changes and modifications to these academic standards to the State Board of Education.

“(3) Recommend to the State Board of Education assessments aligned to proposed changes and modifications that would also reduce the number of high-stakes assessments administered to public schools.

“(4) Consider the impact on educators, including the need for professional development, when making any of the recommendations required in this section.

The Commission shall assemble content experts to assist it in evaluating the rigor of academic standards. The Commission shall also involve interested stakeholders in this process and otherwise ensure that the process is transparent.”

That text is where a lot of the discussion that followed came from.  Questions arose as to whether the charge was to review and modify the Common Core, as those ARE the standards in place, OR do they agree to throw out the core in its entirety and begin from scratch?

Mr. Isenhour felt that they needed to start with what is already in place, taking into account the number of years already in place, as well as professional development and the money already spent on this set of standards. Ms. Covil asked him if he was saying we should stay on the same road, even if it is the wrong road. He said that there needed to be modifications, like in teacher flexibility. He is in favor of traditional Algebra sequences, but said the current written standards are okay, but he just wants to align the sequencing in a more traditional manner.  Modify.

Argument ensued regarding consequences of changes, time, professional development, cost, administrative issues, etc. Mr. Isenhour also said he felt it wasn’t fair to teachers to have a new system thrown out at them.

Co-Chair Metcalf responded that North Carolina has traditionally evaluated and made changes or modifications in standards every 5 years, and we are already 3 years into Common Core, so it shouldn’t be that big of a deal. In addition, Common Core was implemented all at once, no piloting, and no vetting by teachers or parents.  It was done in the “dark of night behind closed doors”.  She also said that they would not be dealing with this problem if there had been involvement by stakeholders prior to the all at once implementation of Common Core.  She reminded the audience that we got 44 million dollars from the Federal Government.

Co-Chair Peek chimed in with the statement that as a starting point, the understanding is that Common Core is suspended in North Carolina, and to start to base standards on North Carolina needs being mindful that we don’t want Federal Education. He said we need to pick a reasonable starting point. He also seemed ready to put forth a suggestion to the Department of Public Instruction to return to traditional math, and do away with the integrated Math, (Math I, 2,3), or to at least make that a decision for the Local Education Agencies (LEAs) . Ms. Metcalf seemed to think it was too late to do that because the kids have already picked classes for next year.

Ms. Covil asserted that all that has been done so far is remove the name Common Core, and said that what is in place and being used now is Common Core. Ms. Covil and Dr Scheik seem to want to move totally apart from any resemblance to Common Core. Ms. Covil reiterated that if what remains is still Common Core, we are still in jeopardy of being sued.

Presentation IV: DPI Dr. Robin McCoy

Dr. McCoy explained that there were 8,703 people who responded to their online survey, explaining how the results were tabulated regarding how many people responded to a particular standard, how many skipped it. The 2 color chart indicated whether a standard was fine as written, or needed to be revised. She shared that this is just one data point, and said that there were opportunities after each section for written comment by the responders that has not been analyzed yet.

Ms. Metcalf requested that the raw data be supplied to the commission, including the written comments. The DPI teacher survey was noted to have had no identifiers as to who was taking the survey, or whether they taught the grade or course they were answering the survey on. It was mentioned that this was nonscientific and should not be considered representative of the 95,000 teachers in the state.

The validity of the survey was questioned by several members of the commission. Dr. McCoy asked if just because there was not a large number of teachers responding, does that make their data less credible? She said their job was to see if a standard needs to be revised.

Dr. McCoy said there had been 8 focus groups throughout the state that coincided with the survey. Mr. Peek asked what DPI’s next step is. The answer was to look at the data and review it with a group of content specialists to determine what if any of the standards needs to be addressed. She stated that DPI’s intent is to make everything as good as possible.

Presentation V: Katie Lemons, Teacher Flexibility

This report was available prior to the meeting on the ARSC website. The main areas of concern were that the standards are rigid and they need clarity.  The quantity and depth of content, developmental appropriateness, and the assessments were all also mentioned in her report. Ms. Lemons shared that to effectively teach children who arrive with different levels of learning, a teacher requires the flexibility to teach each child beginning where he/she is in the learning process.  She continued by saying how difficult it can be if the teacher has to decide to educate the child from where they are, or to rigidly stick with the standard, knowing they are leaving the child behind, but also knowing THEY (teachers) are being assessed on the classroom assessment outcomes.

Next Steps:

There are 3 work groups, Simplification, Flexibility, and Developmental Appropriateness. Each group presented a timeline with their presentation on next steps. These will be integrated at some point.

Ms. Covil has been in touch with content experts in Math and English Language Arts (ELA).  They are Sandra Stotsky and James Milgram who were both part of the Common Core validation Committee, and both of them refused to sign off on the standards. These two Professors have tentatively agreed to come to the March Commission meeting.  Both of these experts are aware that the intent of the ASRC is to move forward, not rehash the problems of Common Core. One other content specialist, Dr. Megan Koschnick, a child clinical psychologist, is willing to conference call into the February ASRC meeting. The commission agreed to move forward on all 3 of these suggestions.

Dr Scheik wants to include community college teachers as well as 4 year college professors in discussions on math gaps that exist as evidenced by the number of students having to take remedial math classes after they graduate High School.

There was some discussion on the ASRC website’s being more visible on the DPI website.

Co Chairs Peek and Metcalf commented that the two of them needed to speak to Dr. Atkinson about the copyright waiver.
Go here for the links to the presentations as well as the DPI Survey results.
Kim Fink
CCTA Public Education Chairman

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