South Carolina made the right decision in agreeing in 2010 to adopt national Common Core standards for the state’s education system. We hope state legislators resist efforts to roll back implementation of this effort.
A bill to repeal Common Core will be up for a hearing today in the state Senate. Critics of Common Core, meanwhile, have scheduled a rally in Columbia to support the repeal effort.
South Carolina is among 45 states that adopted Common Core, a set of uniform standards designed to develop a national norm for measuring student performance and to help ensure that every child in the nation will have access to certain basic concepts and skills that will help them thrive in work and life. Repeal would be a big step backward.
Rock Hill school board member Jim Vining noted last week that, while the board is taking no official position on Common Core, the district already has made a large investment over the past three years in implementing it. Common Core is on track to be fully implemented in the state during the 2014-2015 school year, and reversing direction now would “end up using a lot of resources,” he said.
It also would undo a great deal of positive change that has occurred as a result of introducing Common Core standards in the district. Common Core has helped schools develop sensible curriculum goals while giving teachers and administrators the flexibility to use their professional judgment and creativity in planning and classroom instruction.
Common Core has been the victim of considerable disinformation – either deliberately or out of ignorance. First and foremost, Common Core is not a program developed or mandated by the federal government.
It is the result of a collective effort by teachers, parents, community leaders and educational experts at the grass-roots level to provide reasonable guidelines for what our children should learn. Classroom teachers from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and National Council of Teachers of English worked with members of the business community, college professors and other educators to draw up the standards.
At least one teacher appointed by each state served on a special committee designated to review those standards.
Common Core is not a rigid blueprint that gives teachers no freedom to deviate from the curriculum. Just the opposite, states and local school districts have the flexibility to design lesson plans, specify how standards are met, choose which books will be used in the classroom and determine how to meet the individual needs of students.
There is no required reading list, as some critics claim, just suggestions. While the standards will prove to be more challenging for students in some cases, they also are designed to encourage greater emphasis on critical thinking and better assessments of student progress.
Common Core has its detractors from both ends of the political spectrum. Some conservatives assert that it takes authority away from the state and local school districts (it doesn’t). Some liberals, including members of teachers’ unions, say it requires more work on the part of teachers and greater accountability for their performance (it might).
But the principle question should be: What’s wrong with setting uniform national standards for education? South Carolina has had an educational system with near-total local autonomy regarding curriculum for decades, and that has not produced an educational system that many states would choose to emulate.
Yes, school districts, local superintendents, administrators and teachers should have the flexibility to devise the best ways to meet the Common Core standards. But they need a touchstone, a common criteria to help them determine if they are giving their students the knowledge to compete not only with other American students but also students from around the world.
Common Core isn’t a shackle that will hold students back. It’s a goal that, with imagination and hard work by the nation’s educators, will help propel them forward.
South Carolina needs to continue the implementation of this valuable program.