Anti-Common Core Legislation: Update

The K-12 The Education Subcommittee met Wednesday to discuss bills related to Common Core, most notably, S.300 that, as originally written, would prohibit the use of Common Core academic standards in South Carolina. The strike and insert amendment proposed by Senator Mike Fair, however, would remove this flat-out prohibition from the bill, while adding several provisions, including those borrowed from two bills already filed. The subcommittee did not take action on the strike and insert amendment so that they could have time to look it over and discuss it with school officials in their district.

In summary, this is what the amended bill would do:

  • Remove SC from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (federally funded group making Common Core-aligned tests) and require new assessments (still aligned to our current Common Core standards) for English and Math be approved by the State Board of Education and EOC by November 1, 2014.
  • Require General Assembly approval of any new standards not developed by the SC Dept. of Education.
  • Require the Dept. of Education and EOC to notify the General Assembly and governor of any plans to change existing standards
  • Allow the Dept. of Education, State Board, and EOC to consider borrowing from other standards when developing SC standards.
  • Require that beginning July 1, 2016 a cyclical review to be performed on English and Math standards not developed by SC Dept. of Education (which would be the Common Core standards we have now). *Note: Review deadline was moved to 2018 in subsequent subcommittee meeting.
  • Prohibit SC education agencies/committees from providing individual student data to any federal agency or 3rd party without permission from a General Assembly Joint Resolution.
  • Remove exit exam requirements for high school graduation.

Needless to say, upon hearing that the bill would no longer prohibit Common Core standards, Common Core opponents in the subcommittee audience were audibly disappointed. And while they certainly have every right to be disappointed that the state will be continuing Common Core implementation, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a flat-out Common Core prohibition bill isn’t moving forward. Schools across the state have been working on implementing Common Core standards for 3.5 years, and reasonably so since the standards were approved by the State Board and EOC in the summer of 2010. While this alone may not be excuse enough to turn back on the standards now, it’s politically nearly inconceivable to do so at this point. More important perhaps, is the fact that it’s not up to the legislature, under current law, to pick and choose academic standards and assessments.

Despite the loud and completely warranted outcry against Common Core, if this bill is passed, South Carolinians will have to continue to live with Common Core at least until 2016 when the standards would be up for review. But even then, it will be up to these same groups—the EOC and State Board—(and now the legislature if the standards aren’t created by the Dept. of Education) to approve standards. And the big glaring loophole in this bill is that these groups can still “borrow” from other state standards in creating South Carolina’s own. It would be very easy for them to slightly tweak the current standards just so they no longer have to call it “Common Core” (even when it’s essentially the same) since the state could still be eligible for education grants, waivers, etc. Unless structural changes are made to the state’s education unaccountable power structure, there is nothing to prevent this situation from happening again.

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