COLUMBIA — About 100 adults and children protested the state-adopted Common Core math and reading standards Monday at the S.C. Department of Education as part of National Dont Send Your Child to School Day.
Robin George of Lexington brought her three children, ages 7 through 11, who were excited to skip school.
George said her children rolled their eyes when she told them they were attending a protest of Common Core. But, she added, They know that its something important to me, so it should be something that is important to them.
I dont want anyone to think that Im using my children as pawns, she said, adding, My kids are not common.
Protest organizers hope to build momentum against Common Core before lawmakers return to Columbia in January.
Several proposed legislative would outlaw the standards, created by state governors and state education superintendents to establish what students should know and be able to do at every grade level.
South Carolina, and most other states, adopted the standards voluntarily.
Critics of the standards often characterize them as a federal mandate that usurps local school districts authority to make education decisions.
Contrary to popular sentiment, the Common Core standards were not drafted by the federal government, and they are not a federal mandate, said Jackie Hicks, president of the S.C. Education Association. South Carolina decision-makers voluntarily adopted the standards, which are a common-sense alternative to the ill-advised No Child Left Behind initiative.
State schools Superintendent Mick Zais opposes the standards.
In a letter to the protesters, Republican Zais said the standards require every student to pursue a four-year college preparatory curriculum, when we know that 70 percent of our high school students will not attend a four-year college. I believe that we should be preparing our students for life, not some elusive goal chosen by other people.
State Sen. Lee Bright of Spartanburg, one of four Republicans running against U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham in Junes GOP primary, told the rally that he would fight to get traction for a state Senate bill that would outlaw the standards.
Bright received some national attention Monday for his involvement in the protest. However, Bright told NBCs Chuck Todd Monday morning that he did not keep his daughter out of school.
I wasn't advocating keeping your children out of school today, Bright said. I am supportive of parents, and if they feel like this is the way to get the message to the federal government, then that's their choice.
Some children played in the shade at Mondays rally, while others stood with adults and held Stop Common Core signs behind the podium while speakers denounced the standards.
Peg Luksik, a Pennsylvania anti-Common Core activist, said the standards would dumb down public education, preventing high performers from reaching higher academic goals, such as reading Shakespeare, while forcing younger children to engage in abstract thinking that is beyond their abilities.
Johnelle Raines, a retired North Carolina first-grade teacher who lives in Pickens, said asking young students to work in groups and critique each other is not realistic. When they cant, they feel like a failure, she said.
As an example of unrealistic expectations, Raines cited a Common Core elementary-school writing standard, which says students should, (w)ith guidance and support from adults, focus on a topic, respond to questions and suggestions from peers, and add details to strengthen writing as needed.
Chris Minnich, executive director of the Council of Chief State Schools Officers, which helped write the standards, said children are not going to be asked to do work they cannot do at their age level.
The states wrote these standards. Now, we're having a discussion about the politics, said Minnich, adding educators and early-childhood development specialists worked on the standards.
We expected a deep dialogue about this. I just wish (criticisms of the standards) were based in facts.
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