S.C. Senate approves bill to repeal Common Core

  • Posted: Saturday, May 3, 2014 11:36 p.m.

Before the Common Core academic standards take effect in 2015, they will go away entirely by then. Or maybe not.

The S.C. Senate unanimously approved a bill on Thursday that repeals Common Core with the expectation that South Carolina will create its own standards to take effect in August 2015.

The House, which had its own similar bill, still must accept the Senate version and will likely do so.

Common Core was originally developed through a state consortium coordinated nationwide. It’s intended to provide career and college-readiness for students, Most South Carolina Republicans wanted it repealed outright and create a program of state standards that would fulfill that goal.

The Senate vote is a compromise between Republicans and Democrats. Republicans now have concluded that the standards could not be changed so quickly.

Instead, a panel including the state superintendent, State Chamber of Commerce representatives and others from education organizations will review Common Core, beginning in January 2015.

‘”What we passed today would require the state to come up with new standards for English/language arts and math,” said Sen. Shane Massey, R-Edgefield. “There may be things (with Common Core) that are good. You can implement those into a state standard, but it has to be developed here in the state.”

Without compromises, nothing gets done, said S.C. Rep. Roland Smith.

“There was a need to come up with our own test,” he said. “There was a lot of controversy over Common Core among the general public, a lot of complaints.”

Common Core was adopted in South Carolina in 2010 with most other states at the time. The standards were introduced to teachers, and the Aiken School District did get a jump on many other districts in implementing them.

Three’s an additional complication. Common Core instruction will continue as previously scheduled for another year. The federal government does require a formal assessment of student performance. South Carolina and other states worked on an assessment tool called “Smarter Balanced,” which would have been used for that purpose in the spring of 2015. However, the General Assembly also barred the use of “Smarter Balanced.” The State Department of Education will have to seek bids in September for another assessment instrument.

When the review meetings begin, and as long as the panel and legislators don’t completely throw out Common Core, “We can live with it,” said King Laurence, the Aiken County School District’s associate superintendent for instruction.

Still, he’s concerned that the process to implement new standards and an assessment of those standards will move too quickly. Like others districts, the Aiken School District will continue to teach Common Core standards.

Further, “How can we take just five months to create a whole new set of standards,” Laurence said. “I don’t think (the panel) is going to review standards and then replace them. We have to look at the standards we have. If something is thrown out or changed, there has to be justification.”

The Education Oversight Committee is an independent agency – created in 1998 by the governor and the legislature – that reviews South Carolina’s education processes and programs. The agency’s executive director, Melanie Barton, said Common Core is not a product of for-profit companies. It was originally created by the National Governor’s Association and by former executives with the Council of Chief State School Officers.

“I never imagined any of this controversy,” Barton said.

The review process for state standards already exists. Standards approved in 2005 were incorporated into the Common Core standards. Ironically, the state could have maintained the flexibility of adding 15 percent of specific state standards to Common Core, Barton said, but that option was never pursued by the state.

Typically, the cyclical review would take 18 months to two years. Reducing that time frame to by two-thirds or more would bring significant challenges, Barton said.

“If Common Core as we know it goes away, what would replace it,” she said. “We have to start with Common Core, build off it and take what we want to keep.”

Dr. Randy Stowe, the Aiken School District’s director of administrant, said the distinction between Common Core and any standards adapted by the state won’t be significant in terms of learning how to read and how to calculate. The big difference would be the determination of the specific grade levels in which math and English standards are taught, he said.

Senior writer Rob Novit is the Aiken Standard’s education reporter and has been with the newspaper since September 2001. He is a native of Walterboro and majored in journalism at the University of Georgia.

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