Stopping Common Core: Is It Too Late?

LAWMAKERS SHOULD  END IT – WITHOUT EQUIVOCATION AND WITHOUT DELAY

When it comes to Common Core’s adoption in South Carolina, there is plenty of blame to go around. The federal government could be blamed for bribing states to adopt Common Core through Race to the Top (RTT) grants. At the state level, current and former executive branch officials, the State Board of Education, Education Oversight Committee (EOC), and the legislature all share blame in different ways: the signing of Memorandums of Understanding with Common Core and Smarter Balanced tests; the adoption of these standards and tests; and the formal acceptance of federal grant money in exchange for adopting the same.

With just over two months left in the school year before the full implementation of Common Core, it’s time to put blame aside and end the implementation of Common Core during this legislative session. Should something have been done much sooner? Certainly, but that’s no excuse to do nothing while there’s still time. Once Common Core is fully implemented, it will be extremely difficult to turn back.

To be clear, we’ve argued that legislative fiat wouldn’t be the best means by which to stop Common Core’s implementation, since state law currently gives authority over standards and assessments to the State Board and EOC – not the legislature. Since the State Board and EOC adopted Common Core in the first place, those bodies should vote to replace the standards.

The legislature then needs to reform the accountability structure. The State Board and EOC are hybrid boards, containing lawmakers and appointees from the executive and legislative branches, leaving their decisions highly unaccountable to the public. Decisions over standards and assessments authority in one particular branch – preferably the executive branch through the Department of Education, headed by the state-wide elected Superintendent of Education.

Lawmakers have instead sought the legislative route to ending Common Core. And since the State Board and EOC don’t appear ready to reverse their decisions on Common Core, the legislative route will have to do for now.

As originally written, S.300 would end the use of Common Core standards in the state by directing the State Board to not adopt, and the Department of Education not to implement, Common Core standards developed by the Common Core State Standards Initiative. The bill was recently amended in committee, however. Instead of ending the standards outright, the amended bill would require that the standards be “reviewed” by 2018 (even though the cyclical review occurs up to every seven years). The bill is silent on what happens after the review. While it attempts to add accountability to the standards process by requiring legislative approval of standards not developed by the state in the future, and by prohibiting the use of Smarter Balanced assessments, it’s simply not a valid attempt to end Common Core. As written, it won’t achieve that end, and claiming the contrary would seem to be disingenuous.

If lawmakers are going to end the implementation of Common Core through legislation, then the bill actually needs to end Common Core – not delay it, or put stipulations on which it might end it, but actually end its implementation.

With the public backlash against Common Core in South Carolina, the State Board, EOC, and lawmakers have come up with creative excuses why they haven’t stopped it.

Excuse No. 1: If the state went back to its former standards, it would no longer be considered “College and Career Ready” by the federal government and could lose out on federal grant money.

A plainer way to say this would be: Federal authorities are giving us lots of money to do it their way, so we can’t change.

Excuse No. 2: The state and local school districts have already spent millions of dollars implementing Common Core, and going back now would cost millions more.

We are vigilant in calling out lawmakers for their spending increases, but when it comes to regaining state sovereignty – and more importantly the right to educate our children – any money spent on implementing Common Core needs to be seen as a loss. If lawmakers are actually worried about the costs of changing standards, there is plenty of superfluous spending elsewhere in the budget that can be used to implement South Carolina-created standards instead.

Excuse No. 3: Teachers have already been implementing Common Core, and the Superintendents in my districts aren’t going to be happy if they have to switch back now.

This may be the most compelling excuse. It wasn’t the teachers’ decisions to implement Common Core, and they’d have every right to complain if they have to switch standards yet again. But like the wasted money spent on its implementation, teacher training and previous implementation will have to be seen as loss. Teachers and administrators should know who to blame.

The right of parents to have a say in what their children learn should not be given up at any cost. As long as Common Core is implemented in South Carolina, parents will be void of that right. No excuse, whether fiscal or political, is valid enough to refuse this right. Even if they weren’t the ones to originally adopt the standards, lawmakers now have a chance to end them, and return that right back to parents. If they don’t, parents, too, will know who to blame.

 

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