Education changes must be approached with caution

Education changes must be approached with caution

Kevin Griffin

A new bill in the state legislature may move North Carolina away from the Common Core education to a new, state-produced set of standards.

Several Republicans have proposed a bill, up for discussion and vote in May, that would replace the Common Core Standards in reading and math with new standards with a new system formulated by the State Board of Education in conjunction with a new, politically-appointed Academic Standards Review Committee, according to the News & Observer.

Common Core does have problems both in how it has been implemented and with the standards themselves, and the state should be allowed flexibility to create educational policies that best serve students. Still, we should be skeptical of the new plan coming out of the legislature for changing education in North Carolina.
Common Core has faced a number of criticisms, from the suitability of its curriculum to the process by which it was developed. In some cases, the criticisms are valid.

The evidence surrounding the standards themselves is mixed. Analysis by the Fordham Institute found that most states would see improvements in standards by adopting Common Core.

With Common Core, North Carolina would go from having a D in educational standards for both math and English in the institute’s estimation to having an A- in math and a B+ in English.

Other parts of the standards are more questionable. The standards with English, for example, recommend including more nonfiction texts such as historical documents in classrooms.

I have nothing against students reading these documents, but having them in English classes rather than in civics courses does not seem to make the most sense. For the legislators proposing replacement of Common Core, the issue of federal involvement is a major reason for their opposition.

But Common Core is not a federal mandate. The federal government has supported Common Core through provisions of grants and involvement in testing, but it does not require states to take part.

Despite the problems with Common Core, we should be careful about ditching it altogether. Many teachers in the state, 77 percent of the membership in the N.C. Association of Educators, support the standards, according to the News & Observer.

Attempting to implement a new policy so soon after Common Core might be problematic for both teachers and students. And allowing too much political involvement in the determination of standards of curriculum would almost certainly have the effect of politicizing education in a way that is undesirable.

Determining how to best set educational standards is difficult and will likely never be completed definitely, but policymakers should proceed with caution whenever they try to change standards.

Kevin Griffin, a sophomore journalism major from Madison, is an opinion writer.