To the Contrary

SC Common Core plan is nothing but a shell game

If you have been reading most newspapers and social media, you probably think that with the passage of legislation, with the 10,000 hours (by their count) spent by the rewrite team of the S.C. Board of Education (BOE), and after the commitment by the Education Oversight Committee (EOC), the Common Core education standards for grades K-12 have been replaced by a “new” set of standards “written by South Carolina.” These “new” standards are to be implemented for the 2015-2016 school year.

Surprise!

By a detailed count directed by the EOC, those “new” standards are simply rebranded Common Core standards. A total of 92 percent of the English language arts standards and 89 percent of the mathematics standards are still aligned with Common Core standards.

Moreover, the basic structure of the “new” standards also is carried over from Common Core: elementary school math basics (addition and subtraction mastery, division and multiplication mastery and first year algebra) have all been delayed by one year; geometry is being taught through a method tried only in Russia, where it failed; calculus exists only for the gifted; ELA in kindergarten and first grade continue developmentally inappropriate (too complicated) standards; reading curriculum will rely heavily on very simple material (as much as 70 percent for high school seniors); spelling skills and vocabulary growth are still de-emphasized, and more.

So, the activist groups representing parents and students did their job. The S.C. legislature did its job. But the EOC, the Board of Education and the new superintendent did not do theirs.

At the beginning of the rewrite process, the EOC might have directed the rewrite team to start with the Massachusetts standards, which are widely recognized as the best in the nation. These are free for the taking on the Internet. These standards have produced continuing gains in academic achievements for Massachusetts students over the last 13 years vs. mostly level (no gains) results for South Carolina (per NAEP test results).

Instead, the EOC directed the writing team to start with the Common Core standards, thereby all but guaranteeing that the “new” standards would closely resemble those standards.

Then, in January, with two more months remaining to get truly new standards done, Superintendent Molly Spearman flatly refused any more input from parent activists, saying she wanted to be done with this chore and any upgrades from parents or other advocacy groups would not be accepted.

It seemed that the S.C. Education Board members were more interested in protecting federal funds than in producing quality standards for our school children.

And here’s what the experts say about the final draft of the “new “ standards:

So, what to do now?

Parents and teachers must continue to show strong evidence of their displeasure with the “new” standards. To date, parents have essentially been kept out of the rewrite process and teachers have been muzzled by the bureaucracy. The organization representing parents –South Carolina Parents Involved in Education (SCPIE) – will be encouraging acts of civil disobedience to highlight parents’ objections to high stakes testing.

And, SCPIE has already provided space on its website (SCPIE.ORG) for teachers to voice their objections (either personally or anonymously) regarding the effects Common Core is having in the classroom. The site will persist until the education bureaucracy gets the message that excellent standards in S.C. schools are much more important than federal grants.

The crusade to get excellent standards into S.C. schools is not over. Stay tuned.

Alice Yoder, a resident of Rock Hill, is chairman of Piedmont Parents Involved in Education.

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