Thursday letters: Common Core just a start in South Carolina

October 3, 2013 

— I read Jamie Self’s Sept. 21 article, “Common Core critics come to Columbia,” defining Common Core Standards, and I agree with the approach that every student is to study the same textbook on core subjects such as reading, writing and arithmetic and to be on the same page throughout South Carolina.

It’s a good approach but it does not touch the other basic needs in public education. For instance, the quality in the manner of teaching depends still on the whole spectrum of teachers we have — excellent, average, mediocre and substandard.

In the Nordic countries, where I am from, it was realized over 50 years ago that only excellent teachers produce excellent teachers. That’s not possible in our present in our present public school structure. How do you produce excellent teachers? Through training schools that admit only the top 10 percent to 15 percent of applicants, then submitting them to rigid curricula, to teach the subject well. Complete it with a masters of science degree, honing up on their knowledge.

According to State Superintendent of Education Mick Zais, he has no authority to ask our teaching institutions to adhere to such restrictions. Will he even ask?

What is the proof for the success in Nordic countries? According to world statistics, their seventh-graders always place first, second or third. By comparison, the United States is 17th. In South Carolina, we place about 27th in the nation.

What’s more important than providing our children high quality public education across the board? It’s not done in South Carolina. It can be, but it will take a lot of work on the part of the Republican-led Legislature to get it started, so we won’t stay 50 years behind in the world. The Common Core effort is a good starting point, but it is naive to think that it alone could bring major changes and improvements in South Carolina.

Auvo Kemppinen


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