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Update: Copyright not an issue on Common Core

An attorney for the State Board of Education told members of the Academic Standards Review Commission that copyright would not be an issue if members try to make changes to the state’s Common Core Standards.

Some members have previously expressed concern that copyright issues would get North Carolina into trouble if the Commission made substantial changes.

“You all are free to put together the best standards you can,” State Board of Education attorney Katie Cornetto said.

She said that the Common Core standards have a public license and that the Commission can use all of it or a portion as long as members give attribution to the owners of Common Core — the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers. 

Members of the Commission still expressed skepticism and worry that copyright might become an issue at some point. They discussed the possible need to pursue a waiver from the owners of Common Core.

During the discussion, Republican Rep. Michael Speciale, one of the sponsors of the legislation that created the Commission, raised his hand and came up to speak. He told the Commission they didn’t have to worry about tinkering with the text of the Common Core. 

“The intent of the bill is to replace Common Core,” he said. “It’s not to rebrand it.”

He went on to say that if there was material in the Common Core they liked, it wouldn’t be unique to the Common Core. 

“The people that put it together got it from somewhere,” he said. 

Republican Rep. Larry Pittman, also a sponsor of the bill creating the Commission, told Commission members that the bill he sponsored had more teeth but was watered down in the Senate. 

“The way I had written it, the State Board of Education was going to be required to consult with this Commission, and you would have had a lot more say,” he said. “I’m afraid you may end up coming up with some very good recommendations and the State Board of Education just ignore them. And if that happens there will be further legislation. I promise you.”  

Updated 5:00 PM: 

The Commission went on to discuss what direction to take going forward with its approach to Common Core — whether to make changes to the current standards or create completely new ones.

Commission co-chair Jeannie Metcalf said she was in favor of coming up with something new by the end of next year and perhaps rolling it out in a pilot program to make sure it works. She said part of the problem with Common Core was it was rolled out without a lot of input. 

“It was what it was and we get our $44 million, and come hell or high water, that was what we were going to do,” she said, adding that she thought it was a mistake. 

Metcalf also said she wished the Commission could recommend a change for the math curriculum, sending it back to the pre-Common Core curriculum, for next year. But she acknowledged that whatever the Commission recommended, nothing would happen that quickly. 

Olivia Oxendine, a Commission member and member of the State Board of Education, said there should be some reordering of the current standards and addition of standards that she feels are missing.

“The Common Core state standards existed at one time until 812 came along (Senate Bill 812).” she said. “We’re going to change the Common Core state standards where they need to be changed. Give me five or 10 people, and I will have the writing standards changed in two weeks.” 

Metcalf told Oxendine she should go ahead and try to redo the writing standards for some of the grades and bring it back to the Commission as an example of what is possible. 

Commission member Tammy Covil expressed her concern that making changes to the current standards opens the state up to charges of copyright infringement and a possible lawsuit.

State Board of Education and Commission member Bill Cobey said he didn’t think that would be an issue.

“No organization can contemplate what happens in the future, so they normally will never give away their right to sue you,” he said. “…Does that mean that they will sue you, my feeling is no.” 

Covil suggested completely redoing the standards and getting rid of what’s already in place.

 “We are going to be touching every single standard. So we are rewriting them anyway,” she said. “So why don’t we just say we are dumping what we have and move forward with our own set of standards?” 

The Commission also looked at a survey of teachers from the State’s Department of Public Instruction on the Common Core standards. 

The survey report was broken down by grade and curriculum, but overall, the majority of the respondents appeared to be OK with the standards as they were written. For the full presentation, go here.

While 8,703 surveys were completed, not that many respondents answered every question. For example, for the first question of the presentation related to kindergarten reading standards for literature, only 669 teachers responded. Other questions had fewer respondents. 

“We need to look at more sources of data than one single source,” said commission co-chair Andre Peek.  

While the Academic Standards Review Commission was created by the General Assembly, it still hasn’t received funding. The General Assembly is expected to provide the funds this session. In the interim, the State Department of Administration is providing per-diem expenses for the Commission.

The next meeting of the Commission is February 16.

Alex Granados

Alex Granados is senior reporter for EducationNC.