‘Some of this is a standards problem, but more of it is a curriculum problem.’
senior administrator for high school mathematics, Wake County Schools
by Rachel Lyon
WAKE FOREST — When the Academic Standards Review Commission didn’t revoke what some deemed the highly-disliked Common Core (CC) standards from North Carolina’s public school system in December, some parents were shocked.
To math teacher Catherine Hales, CC hasn’t been the most ideal curriculum to teach.
"The CC curriculum definitely has some flaws. We are trying to teach a very wide variety of topics in a short period of time. There needs to be more time to explore topics in greater depth and time for more practice before moving on to a new topic. It is often difficult to establish the relationships between the different elements since we are covering material so quickly," Hales said.
As a result of the criticism of CC, the commission was created last year by the legislature in order to decipher the most appropriate academic standards needed for students in North Carolina.
According to Sonia Dupree, the senior administrator for high school mathematics in Wake County, the ASRC members voted on each of the recommendations included in their final report at their final meeting in December. Each of the math recommendations were voted against by the majority of members.
Although the news "may seem strange," as Dupree put it, she adds that the subgroup that reviewed the math standards only had one commission member on it, whereas the subgroup that reviewed the ELA standards had several commission members on it.
"The math group consisted of mainly retired math professors and teachers who had little direct experience with teaching CC. My impression during the last meeting was that commission members were concerned about the upheaval that the recommendations would cause for both teachers and students," Dupree said.
Dupree views the decision as logical.
"Transitioning to the CC and moving to an integrated pathway took quite a lot of time and resources, and switching to a completely new curriculum and back to a traditional pathway would do the same," Dupree said.
The decision was not shocking to Hales either.
"I was not surprised that the board voted to keep CC. Millions of dollars has been spent implementing the CC curriculum, and it will take millions more to create a new curriculum. I believe that the money should be spent on hiring more teachers to create smaller class sizes in order to better serve the needs of all students no matter what the curriculum," Hales said.
Dupree, who said, "many of the teachers that came to speak to the ASRC begged them not to bring in new standards, but to keep and revise the CC," sides with the teachers.
"They like it. They have invested a lot of hard work in implementing it and they are seeing results with their students. Typically, it takes about five years to fully implement a new curriculum that is very different from the old," Dupree said. "Given all this, I was pleased at the outcome of the December ????
Despite her contentment with the decision, Dupree hopes to see revisions made to CC, specifically with vertical alignment.
"There are several standards that appear in multiple courses. This has been a source of confusion for teachers. DPI has been working on what they call ‘unpacking’ documents that clarify how much/which part of a standard should be taught in each course," Dupress aid. "We have also been holding vertical alignment meetings at the district level where we gather math I, II and III PLT team leaders to discuss vertical alignment issues. I would like for the revised standards to be3 a little clearer about what should be covered in each course."
She also sees a need for assistance concerning the geometry portion of the curriculum.
"There needs to be more clarity on how the geometry strand develops across the three courses, with guidance on connecting the geometry strand to the algebra and functions strands. Now that the courses are fully integrated, I think some teachers have struggled with making these connections for students. Some of this is a standards problem, but more of it is a curriculum problem," Dupree said.
To Dupree, switching back to the traditional courses isn’t worth it.
"I would not want to go back to a traditional pathway. We really have been integrating math all along, with the false perception of algebra and geometry being separate and distinct topics. However, there has always been some geometry in algebra I and algebra II, and a lot of algebra in geometry," Dupree said.
In the end, Hales would also like to continue with CC.
Hales said, "At this point, I would just like to try and improve the CC curriculum. I have spent so much time and energy creating the materials necessary for the math 1 and 2 courses that I do not really want to go back to algebra and geometry courses. I would love to have textbooks for the CC curriculum, but that is really the only reason that I would want to go back to the original courses."
—Rachel Lyon is co-editor-in-chief of The Forest Fire, the newspaper for Wake Forest High School. This article first appeared in the March 14, 2016 edition of that newspaper and is reprinted here with permission.