Common Core ‘fix’ could leave standards in SC classrooms

02/18/2014 11:38 PM

02/18/2014 11:40 PM

An increasingly divisive, political debate over Common Core could produce a compromise that backs off of asking S.C. teachers to throw out the academic standards.

The state Senate’s K-12 public education committee will meet Wednesday to discuss a proposal that would halt South Carolina’s adoption of the standards, which outline what students should know and be able to do at every grade level.

But some senators — including Common Core opponents — have been discussing a possible compromise as the end of the General Assembly’s two-year session nears this spring.

“We’re faced with (doing) what’s doable,” said state Sen. Wes Hayes, R-York, the panel’s chairman, adding the bill to ban Common Core has not passed either the House or Senate and getting the ban through the Senate alone would be “no small feat.”

The Senate bill up for consideration before Hayes’ subcommittee Wednesday, sponsored by state Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Berkeley, would require S.C. schools to drop the standards.

However, the compromise that senators are discussing would not require school districts already using the standards to change course. Instead, the senators would call for evaluating and, possibly, replacing the standards, slated for full enactment statewide next school year.

That evaluation could happen through the state’s existing process for adopting education standards, said state Sen. Mike Fair, R-Greenville, an opponent of the standards since they were approved in 2010.

A proposal to remove South Carolina from a group of states collaborating on an end-of-year test aligned with the standards also is likely, Fair and Hayes said.

The Common Core standards were created by two associations, representing governors and state schools chiefs, as a way to set a national standard outlining what students should know and when to be prepared for college and careers. The standards were adopted voluntarily by most states.

But critics say the federal government coerced states into adopting the standards by giving them credit for adopting them on federal grant applications.

That is one reason Fair opposes the standards.

But Fair now is advocating for what he calls a “reasonable and probable” proposal that could allay fears about the standards in a bill that could be passed this year. (Any proposal not passed this year — the second of the General Assembly’s two-year session — would have to start over in the legislative process next year.)

Fair said the standards now are “pretty much a done deal in the classroom,” which means “pulling the rug out from under them” would be disruptive to school districts and, as a result, “wouldn’t have a chance of passing.”

If a compromise moves forward, it would reflect a more tempered approach by Common Core opponents. Their efforts to rescind the standards have been bolstered recently by mounting opposition, particularly among Republicans.

GOP Gov. Nikki Haley, Republican state schools chief Mick Zais and other lawmakers have joined a chorus of Common Core critics. Republican activist Sheri Few has made fighting the standards the central focus of her campaign for the GOP nomination for state school superintendent.

State Sen. Lee Bright, R-Spartanburg, a co-sponsor of the Senate bill to rescind the standards, is running for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate against two-term incumbent Lindsey Graham. Facing a primary fight in June, Graham also has signed on to anti-Common Core resolutions as has fellow Republican U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, thus far unopposed in the primary.

Common Core up for debate

Who: Senate Education Committee’s K-12 education subcommittee

What: At its Wednesday meeting, the panel will consider a bill that would stop the enactment of Common Core education standards in South Carolina

When: 9 a.m.

Where: Gressette Building, Room 308

Also on the agenda: Bills that would provide some legislative oversight over the process of adopting academic standards and eliminate the requirement that high-school students pass an exit exam to graduate.

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