Last updated: August 29. 2014 11:46PM - 502 Views
Lindsay Wagner Contributing columnist

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Senate leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) is the first to publicly announce his appointments to a legislative commission that will review and make recommendations for modifying the Common Core State Standards. Berger’s appointments include a retired math professor recommended by the John Locke Foundation and a Winston-Salem/Forsyth school board member who has a “self-guided education in curriculum standards.”

House Speaker Thom Tillis, Gov. Pat McCrory, State Board of Education Chair Bill Cobey and Sen. Berger each must make appointments to the Academic Standards Review Commission, which has the authority to recommend to the State Board of Education that they replace none, some, or all of the much-debated Common Core standards.

The review commission is required by law to meet before Sept. 1 — although no meeting has been scheduled as of Aug. 29.

Berger’s spokesperson, Shelly Carver, told N.C. Policy Watch that the Senate leader made his appointments on August 20. They are as follows:

— Ann Clark, deputy superintendent, Charlotte-Mecklenberg Schools

— Dr. Laurie McCollum, assistant principal, Western Rockingham Middle School

— Jeannie Metcalf, member, Winston-Salem/Forsyth Board of Education

— Dr. John T. Scheick, retired math professor, UNC Chapel Hill, Duke University, The Ohio State University

Dr. Scheick, a retired math professor who lives in North Raleigh, told N.C. Policy Watch by phone that he became interested in the Common Core standards just a few weeks ago, when he read an Aug. 5 Wall Street Journal article by a UC-Berkeley mathematician who skewered the math standards.

“She gave several examples of what seem to be ludicrous methods in the teaching of math,” said Dr. Scheick. “And so I contacted Mr. Stoops [Director of Education Studies at the John Locke Foundation] and he asked me if I would be willing to serve on this review commission, and I said maybe, and he told me how to get in touch with Senator Berger and I did.”

Dr. Scheick said he has no pre-conceived notions about the standards aside from the ludicrous examples provided in the Wall Street Journal article. He also pointed out that when the Russians launched Sputnik, beating the United States in the race to get the first satellite into orbit, the education establishment “freaked out” and consequently invented the new math — which Scheick characterized as a disaster.

“So with that in mind…the question arises — is the Common Core a similar disaster? I just don’t know,” said Scheick.

Jeannie Metcalf is a 20 year veteran of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth Board of Education, and she has chaired its curriculum committee for 16 of those years.

“I hear from parents and teachers about concerns and issues with the Common Core, so that put me in the unique situation to see the academic impact of the standards,” said Metcalf, who decided to throw her hat into the ring and write to Senator Berger to express her interest in serving on the review commission.

Metcalf, who has no background in teaching, said of her qualifications to serve, “I’ve read lots of magazines and I go to lots of meetings … and so I got myself a self-guided education in curriculum standards in North Carolina and how they’ve changed over the years.”

Metcalf was previously called out more than a decade ago in a Winston-Salem Journal article for her comments about gay students made at a school board meeting during a discussion of who should be protected in an anti-bullying policy.

Metcalf was quoted as saying she believed homosexuality was a sin and that she didn’t care if gay students were teased — but Metcalf denied those comments then and now.

“I love homosexual people,” said Metcalf. “It was an issue of adding things to our bullying policy… and when we start labeling children, we will miss someone, so I want zero tolerance for anyone — there is no use getting into labels.”

Dr. Laurie McCollum is an assistant principal at Western Rockingham Middle School and a career educator who earned a Ph.D. in English from UNC Greensboro.

On her appointment to the review commission: “I’ve always been interested in politics and always wanted a chance to serve,” said McCollum, who has gone back and forth between teaching English in public schools and higher education. She says she has no personal connection to Berger, but acknowledged that her mother, Elaine McCollum, a member of the Rockingham Board of Education, likely travels in the same circles as the Senate leader.

McCollum said she would have phased in Common Core, beginning with the younger grades and then implementing standards as those students aged.

“That way, high school students wouldn’t have to completely revamp the way they have learned everything,” said McCollum.

She is also disappointed that Common Core was rolled out at the same time as Standard 6, a new teacher evaluation system. “Teachers have had to deal with so many shifts in the curriculum to accommodate Common Core, all while knowing they’d be evaluated against those new changes. I’m not at all against the standards; I just think the timing was unfortunate,” said McCollum, who was also frustrated by the lack of resources devoted to implementing the standards.

“I hope that we come up with a set of standards that help students grow and succeed, but that don’t hamper teacher’s ability to be creative, to do what they are best at,” said McCollum. “It’s a very difficult time for teachers. Let’s keep what’s best and coherent.”

Lindsey Wagner writes for NC Policy Watch.

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