Common Core has become a major concern for some parents in North Carolina, a state where homeschooling grew by 14 percent during the last academic year. More children are now getting an education at home than in the state’s private schools.
“More and more private traditional schools are choosing to align to the Standards,” said Lynne Taylor, a North Carolina parent who has homeschooled her kids for more than a decade. Taylor says unhappiness with the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI) is the primary reason for the recent spike in homeschooling.
Taylor, who began activism against Common Core in 2009, says even homeschool parents have to exercise caution about the standards. “I have met people almost on a daily basis who are escaping Common Core Standards via home education because the traditional system is failing their families. My main concern is that they receive the proper guidance in remaining Common Core Standard-free. In North Carolina, Common Core is not only available to home education; it is, most times, hidden in plain sight. If you’re not careful, the system you seek to escape can meet you all over again.”
Standards Called Illegal, Impractical
Taylor disputes both the legality and the practicality of the curriculum she seeks to escape. “Our 10th Amendment and at least three federal education laws are broken” by it, she said. “No legislative votes were cast to give us vetted, tested, educator-created standards. Little to no allowances are made for young, developing minds at their pace, those with special needs, or the gifted.”
Taylor cites the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act, which states, “Nothing in this Act shall be construed to authorize an officer or employee of the Federal Government to mandate, direct, or control a State, local educational agency, or school’s curriculum, program of instruction, or allocation of State and local resources.” In addition, she notes, the General Education Provisions Act and the Department of Education Organization Act both limit federal control over school curricula.
Taylor and other Common Core critics argue many states were baited into adopting the Standards in hopes of obtaining the Department of Education’s Race to the Top grant money.
Variety of Reasons
Parent Spencer Mason, who homeschooled his four children in North Carolina, says there are a variety of reasons why home education’s popularity has increased in his state. “I think the steady growth of homeschools in North Carolina is due to three main factors,” Mason said. “One, the favorable North Carolina homeschool law and the good support system. Two, more and more families are seeing the results of home education and desiring the same results for their children. And three, dissatisfaction with the public school system. I think the recent spike in the number of homeschools is partially the result of parents learning about how the Common Core State Standards will affect their children.”
Mason says the economy could be another factor. “I think the economic downturn in 2009 has led to the decline in the number of private school students in general, and has made homeschooling attractive to more families,” he said.
The substantial surge in homeschooling over the past few years may have led to the North Carolina state legislature’s recent decision to replace Common Core State Standards with new ones. Pat McCrory signed Senate Bill 812 in July, effectively repealing Common Core in the state with the stated intention of implementing new standards designed specifically for North Carolinians.
The question now is how closely the North Carolina Higher Academic Standards will resemble Common Core. The current plan is said to resemble an earlier Senate proposal that retained some aspects of the standards.
Committee in Control
Exactly what the new standards entail will depend largely on the committee members appointed by State Board of Education to review and approve them, and the recently selected members are likely to bring diverse perspectives. McCrory made one appointment himself, selecting IBM executive Andre Peek for his business knowledge. Soon after his appointment, Peek reportedly told NC Policy Watch he has always supported Common Core.
Other appointees include John T. Scheick, a retired math professor from Duke University and UNC Chapel Hill, who was recommended to Republican Sen. Phil Berger as a Common Core skeptic, and former assistant principal Laurie McCollum, also appointed by Berger, who said she would have slowly phased in the Common Core standards.
Kevin McClain, president of North Carolinians for Home Education, says he would prefer the legislature simply stay out of it. “I think curricular and assessment decisions are the purview of instructors and parents, and legislative activity concerning curriculum and assessment are an ultimately unproductive act of statecraft and a poor strategy for a truly public education system,” he said.
McClain did not express much optimism regarding increases in home education possibly becoming a trend in other states battling over Common Core. “I certainly hope so,” McClain said. “However, every state has different laws governing homeschooling, and some states erect unjust barriers for parents to exercise their liberty to educate their children. North Carolinians are fortunate to live in a state that recognizes parents’ authority in decisions regarding the education of their child.”
Chris Neal ([email protected]) writes from New York, New York.
Image by The Bunny Project.