NC Common Core Commission Co-Chair Pens Dissent Opinion

Tammy_Covil-SMimgOne of the co-chairs of the NC Common Core Commission, Tammy Covil,  has issued a dissent opinion on the commission’s recommendations. Covil recently sat on the New Hanover County Board of Education and is currently running for a General Assembly House seat in District 20 for the 2016 election cycle.

A little backstory — The Commission, which just wrapped up a 15 month long inquiry,  voted on recommendations  and effectively killed critical changes to the math standards. As I noted in earlier articles, the commission, in stripping the math recommendations and offering weak ELA recommendations,  did not fulfill the requirements of the NC General Assembly bill which created the commission.  View the Commission’s website for the most recent meeting materials.

Co-Chair Tammy Covil, in a press release today, criticized the other commission members for their actions during the voting that took place on December 18th.  Covil ‘s remarks are below.



Wilmington, NC, December 30, 2015 – In an open letter to her fellow commission members, Tammy Covil expressed dissatisfaction with the commission’s final vote on recommendations she states will result in nothing more than a rebrand of Common Core.

Ms. Covil serves as co-chair of the North Carolina Academic Standards Review Commission. The commission was formed by the General Assembly in 2014 to review and recommend replacement for the state’s K-12 math and English language arts standards, formerly known as Common Core. Their final report is due to be released today.

“Having spent so much time and energy on such an important endeavor, I felt it necessary to recount the events that transpired over the past 15 months. Sadly, much of what occurred behind the scenes undermined our final recommendations,” Mrs. Covil stated. “Although I am disappointed that we were unable to complete our charge to the degree that the legislature had intended, I am proud of the work that went into vetting the standards. There is more than enough evidence in our findings to warrant replacement of the math standards.”

The following is the text of Mrs. Covil’s dissenting opinion:

Commission Members,

As co-chair of the North Carolina Academic Standards Review Commission, I wish to inform you that I will not endorse this commission’s final recommendations.

Although one would have expected the overwhelming evidence of Common Core’s shortcomings to have convinced even the most biased individual toward the obvious conclusion of replacement, it became clear to me long before the final vote that many of the appointees had no intention of producing substantive changes to North Carolina’s academic standards.

The General Assembly appointed us to act in good faith on their legislative mandate to repeal and replace Common Core. To say that many of you disregarded your duty as an appointed member is an understatement. Some of you not only snubbed this obligation, you appeared to be actively working against it.

Over the past fifteen months, this commission entertained testimony from a multitude of education stakeholders, most notably two highly regarded experts in the field of standards development and a child brain development specialist. These experts offered compelling evidence that exposed the developmental inappropriateness and academic inefficiencies of Common Core. They provided detailed examples and cited comprehensive research to support their claims. Most of this testimony confirmed the North Carolina commission’s findings. Sentiments expressed by classroom teachers through multiple feedback opportunities and survey data further cemented the need for standards replacement.

In contrast, the education non-profits and lobby groups that were insistent upon coming before the commission to extoll the virtues of Common Core offered little more than vague platitudes, regurgitated talking points, and skewed data. Many of them failed to grasp the difference between standards and curriculum. Nor did they understand that rigor is delivered through instruction, not a standard.

What was evident in their testimony, however, was the extreme desire to protect Common Core at all costs. As was quickly determined, this was all being driven by the expectation of financial gain; one that only a nationalized curriculum could generate. Unfortunately in education, money tends to cloud sound policy decisions.

Nonetheless, their agendas and biases were exposed, yet summarily ignored.

Perhaps the most revealing aspect of this entire exercise was exhibited in the unwarranted and vicious attack on Dr. Scheick and his math group, most of whom possess more individual teaching experience than those who wrote the Common Core math standards combined. The fact that certain commission members waited until the final meeting to reveal their true colors is evidence of their intent to undermine this commission’s work from the beginning.

Even the media was stunned by this duplicitous about-face.

As you are well aware, Dr. Scheick and his team labored tirelessly for months to vet the math standards. They took to the task of ensuring that the state’s standards would meet the criteria mandated in Senate Bill 812. They did so in a very short period of time and under less than supportive circumstances. Not only were North Carolina’s math standards carefully scrutinized, they were compared to other states’ standards (both pre and post Common Core adoption), as well as other countries in order to balance global competitiveness.

How were they rewarded for their efforts? They were treated to a dog and pony show orchestrated by certain members who rarely participated during the monthly meetings, refused to offer any assistance during the math review process, and who failed to attend any of the teacher focus group meetings, despite the fact that they insisted upon them in the first place.

Impugning the character and teaching credentials of Dr. Scheick’s math team and holding the validity of their recommendations to a higher burden of proof than your own State Superintendent is the height of hypocrisy.

Interestingly enough, none of the commissioner members disputed the findings, which are quite damning, to say the least. Had anyone harbored doubt or disapproval of the findings, it was never expressed. Those of us committed to the task at hand noted this lack of cooperation and apathy.

Unlike Common Core, the Minnesota math standards have a proven track record of success. According to the math team, the Minnesota math most closely aligned with the criteria outlined by the legislature. Since it was determined in the findings that the Common Core math standards are fundamentally flawed, tweaking them would actually require more work than adopting a new set of standards and building upward. Why this was considered an unreasonable recommendation is beyond me.

Likewise, and despite the fact that 60% of high school math teachers expressed a strong desire to return to the traditional math sequence of Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II, the commission inexplicably chose to abandon this recommendation. There was virtually no professional development prior to implementation of Integrated Math, nor were there textbooks or an appropriate curriculum available to teach it. As a result, most teachers were forced to haphazardly piece together a curriculum in the hopes that it would meet course expectations. For all the talk about ensuring teacher flexibility, you could not even agree to make a recommendation that would allow teachers the option of the teaching the material in the format that they are most comfortable – So much for teacher advocacy.

Ultimately, the majority decided to punt their responsibility for offering a solution to this quagmire back to the very same department that created it. Abdicating your responsibility in this way not only implies an aversion to leadership; it indicates contempt for the educational well-being of North Carolina’s 1.5 million students and the 95,000 teachers shackled by these standards.

Rather than side with the most important stakeholders in education – teachers, parents and students – many of you predictably and shamefully cow-towed to education elitists, corporate interests and big government.

For those who so emphatically feigned concern for the costs involved in replacing Common Core with a more appropriate set of academic standards, you have failed to consider the lost funding that will result due to frustrated parents pulling their children out of the state’s public school system in protest over your decision to maintain the status quo.

Maybe that is the answer, as nothing else seems to break through the bureaucratic inertia within public education like the threat of funding cuts.

Tammy J. Covil

This article was posted in Blog by LadyLiberty1885 - A.P. DIllon on December 30, 2015 at 11:07 am.

Comments (5)

  • Tammy, thank you for your tireless work on this commission & for your devotion to the children of NC. But most of all thank you for your dissent letter.

    Linda Dollyhigh
    Linda Dollyhigh Dec 30, 2015 at 11:57
  • Although your efforts were fruitless, it’s good to know there was any action for a repeal in your state. Keep fighting!!!

    Antoinette Vogt
    Antoinette Vogt Dec 30, 2015 at 19:32
  • i wish the state of Georgia had a person like you to stand up and fight for the education of our children

    david sanders
    david sanders Dec 31, 2015 at 23:11
  • I noted the following in the draft report of the mathematics working group (page 14):

    “Logic, deductive reasoning, formal proof, and indirect proof have been eliminated except for a few simple exercises in triangle congruence.”

    This did not ring true based on a past look at the the Common Core Standards. Looking again, I found the following in the Standards:

    High School Geometry, page 76:
    Prove geometric theorems
    9. Prove theorems about lines and angles. Theorems include: vertical
    angles are congruent; when a transversal crosses parallel lines, alternate
    interior angles are congruent and corresponding angles are congruent;
    points on a perpendicular bisector of a line segment are exactly those
    equidistant from the segment’s endpoints.
    10. Prove theorems about triangles. Theorems include: measures of interior
    angles of a triangle sum to 180°; base angles of isosceles triangles are
    congruent; the segment joining midpoints of two sides of a triangle is
    parallel to the third side and half the length; the medians of a triangle
    meet at a point.
    11. Prove theorems about parallelograms. Theorems include: opposite
    sides are congruent, opposite angles are congruent, the diagonals
    of a parallelogram bisect each other, and conversely, rectangles are
    parallelograms with congruent diagonals.

    Page 77
    Similarity, Right Triangles, and Trigonometry
    Prove theorems involving similarity
    4. Prove theorems about triangles. Theorems include: a line parallel to one
    side of a triangle divides the other two proportionally, and conversely; the
    Pythagorean Theorem proved using triangle similarity.
    5. Use congruence and similarity criteria for triangles to solve problems
    and to prove relationships in geometric figures.

    Searching the standards on “Prove” will find other examples, such as “prove the laws of sines and cosines”, “prove that all circles are similar”, “Construct the inscribed and circumscribed circles of a triangle, and
    prove properties of angles for a quadrilateral inscribed in a circle”, and “Prove the slope criteria for parallel and perpendicular lines and use them to solve geometric problems.”

    It is the case that Common Core doesn’t include a cluster of standards focusing on methods of proof; rather it seems to leave developing such methods up to the teacher. But I don’t think that excuses the error made by the math working group (what might explain that is the tardy underfunding of the Commission and its working groups).

    Skeptic at Large
    Skeptic at Large Jan 03, 2016 at 16:22
  • We seem to have a education system that like almost everything else in our lives is controlled by the federal government, Is that not a form of socialism as by definition? Also A university professor told me one time that just because you completed the class and you have a BA or PHD you are not any more intelligent than you were before you started the class only better educated. Over the years I have observed that sometimes life experiences teach us more than a lot of educational experiences. You can look at some of the people in charge of common core and you cansee they have been educated far beyond their intelligence!

    Monty Blackwell
    Monty Blackwell Jan 05, 2016 at 13:29

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