- Associated Press - Friday, December 18, 2015

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - A commission created by opponents of North Carolina’s Common Core education standards failed Friday to recommend concrete examples of what should replace the standards’ math-teaching methods.

The Academic Standards Review Commission was directed by the General Assembly last year to review all English Language Arts and mathematics standards and propose modifications. The recommendations approved by the panel Friday boil down to this: What children should learn between kindergarten and high school graduation should be revised so course work better fits their age. And teachers should be better trained.

The product amounted to little more than a face-lift of the Common Core standards that critics want repealed, commission co-chair Tammy Covil said.

“It means taking Common Core and calling it something different, that’s what I think ultimately these recommendations will accomplish,” said Covil, a New Hanover County school board member who has expressed her opposition to the education standards.

The Common Core is a body of education guidelines developed with the aim of preparing children across the country for college and careers. They were developed by state school officers and the National Governors Association. Forty-four states including North Carolina adopted them and the Obama Administration offered grants through its Race to the Top program to encourage strong academic standards.

North Carolina is among several states that have subsequently decided to rewrite the standards in favor of their own academic outlines under pressure from those critical of Washington’s influence in schools.

The commission was created to suggest changes to Common Core for the State Board of Education and lawmakers. It issued a report Thursday that captured some of the criticisms of the standards.

The Common Core math teaching techniques make “computations with models into monstrously complex exercises that parents and children cannot understand,” the report said. That frustrates families by making “it difficult or impossible for parents to help their children with their homework.”

But commission members failed to agree on a recommendation to return high school math instruction to the old sequence of algebra, followed by geometry and more algebra. The panel also couldn’t agree on a proposal to adopt school guidelines for teaching math in kindergarten through eighth grade now used in Minnesota and praised for their clarity.

The panel also reported that parents and teachers alike are complaining about the lack of textbooks in schools.

“This deficiency has forced teachers to search for lesson plan material on the Internet, which can be time consuming, and often teachers do not have the resources to share the materials they find,” said the panel. “This finding defeats the promise that all North Carolina students have equal opportunity to receive a quality education.”

State spending on textbooks has dropped from $68 per student before the recession in 2008-09 to about $15 per student in 2014-15, according to the state Department of Public Instruction. Lawmakers have sought to move away from printed textbooks to digital learning methods. This summer, they nearly doubled spending on textbooks and digital resources by allocating an additional $53 million over two years.

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Follow Emery P. Dalesio at http://twitter.com/emerydalesio. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/emery-p-dalesio

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