At Cary forum, parents criticize Common Core education standards

aramos@newsobserver.comFebruary 27, 2014 

— Parents voiced their frustration over the Common Core State Standards during a public forum with Wake County schools Superintendent Jim Merrill.

Children who once looked forward to going to school now dread it, and homework has become an emotional ordeal, some parents said.

Monday’s event at Green Hope High School was the last session of the Superintendent’s Direct Line, a series a forums in which school employees and parents could speak out.

Most speakers on Monday talked about the new math standards. Some said they are struggling to help their kids with homework. They also said teachers lack the resources to teach the material, and parents aren’t getting any guidance.

Rebecca Putnam of Raleigh said she was baffled by an assignment in which her third-grade son was asked to “decompose rectangular linear shapes.”

“I had to look it up online so I could figure out how to explain it to my third-grader,” she said. “My friends and I are calling each other asking, ‘What did you do? What answer did you get?’ 

One speaker said her son was so depressed after struggling with Common Core that she transferred him to a private school.

Hugh Rillie said he is a mechanical engineer and his wife is an accountant. He said they both had a hard time helping their daughter, who attends Highcroft Drive Elementary in Cary, with her math homework on double-digit addition and subtraction.

Rillie said he learned how to borrow and carry numbers in a one-step process. Under Common Core, he said, students use multiple steps to find the answer.

The more-complicated method isn’t ideal, Rillie said.

“We are asking the Wake County superintendent to rethink implementation of the Common Core,” he said. “Go back to the old standard. Investigate other methods that have proven successful.”

But the decision to adopt the new standards wasn’t up to Wake County school leaders, said school board member Susan Evans, who attended the forum. It was a state decision.

“We don’t have any leeway,” Evans said. “All we can do is use our voice to make our concerns heard.”

She said she has reached out to lawmakers and asked for a closer look at Common Core.

Common Core is designed to establish a single set of rigorous standards for students in kindergarten through high school that prepare them for post-secondary school.

States could choose to adopt the new curriculum. North Carolina adopted the standards in 2010 in hopes of getting a better shot at federal Race to the Top money.

Forty-four states and Washington, D.C. have adopted Common Core.

In February, some teachers and school administrators testified before a North Carolina legislative committee to speak out against the standards.

They said the goals of Common Core were worthwhile, but the program was implemented too quickly. Several lamented the lack of textbooks aligned to the new standards and inadequate teacher training.

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, one of the state’s most prominent Common Core critics, recommended that the legislature reconvene an education standards and accountability commission to review each of the Common Core standards and decide whether they should be kept, altered or abandoned.

“We need North Carolina-designed standards, designed by North Carolina educators and professionals for North Carolina students,” Forest said.

The backlash against the standards began with tea party-associated groups that considered them an improper intrusion by the federal government. Critics now cover the political spectrum.

Putnam, the Raleigh parent, said her son was accustomed to excelling in school.

“He’s already experiencing so much more pressure,” she said. “With his homework, he’ll hang his head and stare at the piece of paper.”

Staff writer Lynn Bonner contributed to this report.

Ramos: 919-460-2609; Twitter: @AlianaCaryNews

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