Newly Proposed NC Math Standards Are Not So New

May 5, 2016

Academic standards don't usually grab headlines. But the debate over Common Core has changed that. The North Carolina Board of Education got a look at a proposal for new high school math standards Wednesday. Those are the first changes the North Carolina department of Public instruction has recommended, since state lawmakers decided to do away with Common Core in 2014. They may be new, but after all the controversy over Common Core, they aren't that different.   

What changes were not proposed that would've taken the state further from Common Core? 

The big one would be to go back to how North Carolina schools used to teach math.  There was Algebra I, then Geometry, then Algebra II. Now, geometry is spread out over all three years. The NC Department of Public Instruction says this allows students to better build on ideas. 

Lawmakers set up a commission to come up with recommendations to replace Common Core. How would these new standards square with those suggestions

Credit Flickr/Seth Sawyers / http://www.flickr.com/photos/sidewalk_flying/4267034867/sizes/l/

Spreading out geometry over three years was one of the academic review commission's big debates.  They finally came to a split decision on that. In the final recommendations, there was no mention of going back to the old way of doing things.  And most of the other recommended changes were modest and not very specific.  Now, the Department of Public Instruction stresses they got input from a lot of people – parents, district administrators, and teachers - and the commission's recommendations were a part of that feedback. I should also note, the department reviews its standards every 5 years or so, and this latest review fit into that timeline. 

What exactly are the changes?

Standards are goals for what students should know. These proposed changes are certainly not big ones. One board member referred to them as clarifying and re-sequencing the existing Common Core standards. For example, tweak the language so it puts more emphasis on problem-solving and clarifies their meaning. The department of public instruction also suggests changing the point at which certain concepts are taught. For example, what's known as Math III also includes a focus on circles and quadrilaterals, while Math II looks at triangles. 

When might we see these changes go into place?

The NC Board of Education is expected to vote on them next month.  Before that, the standards will then go to the state legislature for discussion.  The plan is: schools will begin using the standards beginning this fall.