Bolton: SC’s review of Common Core could have paralyzing effect

Associate EditorJune 22, 2014 

I DIDN’T mind the emails and calls of disagreement I received following a column I wrote about “the uncommon and unreasonable uproar over Common Core.” As a matter of fact, I expected it.

Whether it was people telling me I didn’t know what I was talking about or imploring me to do more homework or accusing me of being in line with the Obama liberals, they didn’t bother me.

But there was one response that bothered me greatly: It came from a local teacher who told me that her school won’t be ordering and teaching from a textbook it had planned to use next year — notice I said the school had made the choice, not President Obama. So, what are they going to do? She just shrugged.

I wonder how many other schools and districts are making similar decisions — all because of the unreasonable clamor and vitriol some are hurling at Common Core.

I applaud lawmakers for showing restraint and calling for a careful review of Common Core rather than giving in to the crowd calling for the state to reject the standards. But it appears that even the review is having a paralyzing effect on our children’s education. Some educators are timid about going forward because they don’t know what lawmakers are eventually going to do.

And if administrators and teachers don’t know exactly how they’re going to proceed next year, guess what? Neither do parents and students. Who knows to what degree this will affect the planning and, ultimately, the learning process?

As I’ve said, I’m still warming up to the Common Core standards, which is what happens when something new is introduced. Even so, it strikes me as premature to ditch them so early in the game based on high-pitched rhetoric driven by emotions, politics or ideology.

Based on the feedback I’ve gotten, there are many who agree with me. As a matter of fact, a great deal of people embrace the standards wholeheartedly.

And understandably so: How do you argue with standards aimed at making students more competitive and preparing them for college, the work world and life in general? The standards seek to challenge students to think, study, analyze and interpret.

That said, there are those who are just as adamant that these standards threaten education as we know it and would be harmful to students.

Here’s a smattering of some of the feedback I received:

•  “Unfortunately many parents and citizens in general do not know the truth about how the Common Core standards came to be. First off the Federal Government has tried for many years to get their hands on education and were unsuccessful because WE THE PEOPLE stopped them over and over. Education belongs to states and parents!!!! Now we have Common Core Standards that our governors signed onto without seeing them and without proper approval processes from parents and educators. 

“Oh and I have not even mentioned teaching to the test, teacher evaluations tied to assessment outcomes, copyright issues, budget concerns for schools trying to keep up with technology, the progressive agenda that is sprinkled all throughout Common Core curriculum, the developmentally inappropriateness of K-3 standards, the lowering of standards for higher school grades, the sexual and violent content in required reading.”

•  “I'm a SC native now working in a charter school network in Newark, New Jersey. … At our schools, we are thrilled about the Common Core and its ability to help us figure out even more precisely what we need to do to ensure our students are college-ready and competitive with students across the country.”

•  “PLEASE read more on common core before you sing it’s praises! It is NOT what we are to be teaching our children. There are far to many lies in the text books. As for the Math I find it very difficult & have a degree in accounting. But who am I? Just a Parent, Grand Parent & Great Grand Parent. I am very use to change at 73 years of age. I have seen plenty. This in my complete honesty is NOT the change we need!”

•  “I worry about the fact that our students are being judged on non-South Carolina standards, whether we like it or not. When students graduate in South Carolina, they are compared to students from all over the US and all over the world for college entrance, for college scholarships, and for jobs both inside and outside the state of South Carolina.

“If 35 or even 25 states teach to the Common Core standards, administer the Common Core aligned tests, and report student achievement on Common Core standards, but South Carolina does not do so, colleges and businesses will find it much easier to understand what students in those Common Core states know. 

“We cannot control what colleges and businesses do, we can only try our best to prepare South Carolina students to succeed, even when measured against the rest of the world. Refusing to adopt Common Core is refusing to give South Carolina students a fair chance.”

Reach Mr. Bolton at (803) 771-8631 or wbolton@thestate.com

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