Some are calling it a possible high level of federal intrusion that will bar South Carolina from having control over its schools system.
Others are calling it a 21st century approach that will ensure S.C. students are learning the material they need to be competitive with other students nationally and globally.
At issue is Common Core, a national set of math and English/language arts standards that South Carolina, along with 45 other states, are set to implement. Each state is set to scrap their state standards and replace them with the Common Core ones which lay out the math and English skills students in kindergarten through 12th grade should learn to be ready for college and careers.
South Carolina is far down the road of implementation already. Both the S.C. Board of Education and the Education Oversight Committee, the state’s education watchdog group, have signed off on South Carolina implementing Common Core in 2014. And some districts are already training staff on how to teach the new standards.
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But a new bill, introduced by Sen. Mike Fair, R-Greenville, seeks to stop the program in its tracks.
Bill supporters say the new standards will let the federal government – not South Carolina – decide what students at each grade level should learn. They also say the new standards are watered-down and lack the rigor of current state standards.
“If Common Core is put in place, you will have effectively ceded control of public education in South Carolina to the national government,” said Larry Kobrovsky, a member of the state Board of Education, who testified Thursday before a Senate subcommittee. “This will drive the curriculum, the text book, how teachers are evaluated – all of this will be done outside of our state.”
But advocates for Common Core and the tests South Carolina would use to assess students, say the new standards are far more rigorous than current ones. They also contend Common Core has many other benefits including the fact that they are nationwide standards allowing South Carolina, for the first time, to compare its students and education system with those in other states.
Right now, each state has their own unique education standards, making it nearly impossible to provide a fair, comprehensive comparison.
“I can’t tell you how much I support these standards,” said Christie Reid, math instructional supervisor for the Clover school district, during Thursday’s subcommittee meeting. “They’re the right thing for our children. We’ve already starting implementing them in our district.”
Lawmakers remain split. Thursday, a Senate subcommittee advanced the bill to the full committee level – but with a negative report. That means halting Common Core is still possible but will be an uphill battle.