COLUMBIA — Common Core education standards are opposed by conservatives across the country. Here’s a look at what they are and what’s happening in South Carolina:
What is Common Core?
Common Core standards are math and English benchmarks describing what students should know after completing each grade, so they’re ready for college and careers after high school.
They replace standards and proficiency definitions that varied state-to-state. More than 40 states, including South Carolina, have adopted them, allowing for accurate comparisons of students’ performance.
Opponents view Common Core as a nationalization of public education, though it’s not federal. The initiative was led by governors and superintendents, through the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. However, the Obama administration encouraged states to sign on through its Race to the Top grant program.
What’s its status here?
Full implementation of Common Core, to include testing aligned to the standards, continues as planned this school year.
But a South Carolina law signed May 30 requires new standards to replace Common Core when students walk into classrooms in August 2015. Opponents of Common Core had pushed to immediately toss them out. Instead, the compromise language required new standards in 2015-16 following a review of the current ones. Any changes must be approved by both the state Board of Education and the independent Education Oversight Committee – the two boards that adopted Common Core in 2010.
How much will change?
Two definite additions will be requiring elementary students to learn how to write in cursive and memorize multiplication tables, as mandated in a separate law signed in June. Another expected change is adding standards for a high school calculus course, which Common Core lacks.
Beyond that, many legislators expected a tweaking of Common Core. Leaders of the state board and oversight committee said there’s no time to start from scratch. However, Superintendent Mick Zais insists there is and that there will be no simple editing of Common Core. Zais has no vote on either deciding board, but he has influence over the process, as his agency put together the educator panels it instructed to write, not review, standards. Zais initially said the panels wouldn’t even have access to Common Core, but he later backed off that to say Common Core standards are among those on the table for consideration.
What’s the timeline?
The math and reading writing panels first met July 21 and Aug. 6, respectively. The state Board of Education approved Aug. 13 a timeline that calls for giving a final OK to the new standards in March, allowing time for teacher training on the changes. That relies on the writing panels turning in drafts by mid-October and the state’s university and technical college boards certifying the panels’ standards are “college and career ready.” If not, the boards will have a real mess about the time Zais, who’s not seeking a second term, leaves office in January.
The panels are scheduled to meet 19 times before mid-October, then reconvene in December.
The process normally takes a couple of years, and this is the first time South Carolina educators are tasked with writing standards that meet the “college and career ready” definition that any student who scores proficient won’t need remedial course work. Currently, 41 percent of students who graduate from a public high school require math and reading remediation in South Carolina’s two-year colleges.
Will the public have input?
The Education Oversight Committee invites the public to comment on Common Core standards in a survey available at http://scstandards.org , which is open through Sept. 30. The oversight agency is appointing review panels that will include educators, parents, and business and community leaders to review the survey results and the writing panels’ drafted standards. The timeline calls for those drafted standards to be online for public review during the month of November at http://ed.sc.gov/scde-grantopportunities/NewSCStandards.cfm .