The Buzz

July 31, 2014

SC schools chief now says Common Core can be part of review

A spokesman for state schools chief Mick Zais said Thursday that educators will have access to Common Core – along with other education standards – as they work to write new standards for S.C. students. The position marks a reversal for Zais, who previously told The State he would not allow a copy of Common Core standards in the room with educators writing the standards.

The Buzz

A blog from The State's political team of Cassie Cope, Jamie Self and Andy Shain. Email tips to thebuzz@thestate.com.

A spokesman for state schools chief Mick Zais said Thursday that educators will have access to Common Core – along with other education standards – as they work to write new standards for South Carolina students.

That position marks a reversal for Republican Zais, who told The State in a July 8 interview that Common Core’s standards would not be available during the writing South Carolina’s new standards, which set what students should know in each grade.

“We’re not going to repackage, we’re not going to re-brand, we’re not going to tweak the Common Core,” Zais said July 8. “We’re going to start with S.C. 2007 standards, Texas standards and a couple of other states, and we’re not even going to have a copy of Common Core state standards in the room for the writing panels.”

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Zais’ stance sparked debate over whether leaving Common Core out of the legislatively ordered revision of the state’s education standards was legal. But Thursday – in a meeting with state senators and state Education Department called to settle the rift – Zais’ spokesman Dino Teppara said standards writers would have access to Common Core and any other standards that they request.

Zais reversed his position after talking to a staff attorney, Teppara said. “You have to look at the current standards ... you can’t prohibit that.”

Nothing has changed in the department’s plan to avoid re-branding or renaming Common Core’s standards, Teppara added. Instead, the writing panels will “develop new standards” starting with a “clean slate.”

Zais about-face follows disagreement over whether the revision process should start with Common Core.

An opinion by a state Senate attorney — requested by Republican Sens. John Courson of Richland, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, and Wes Hayes of York — says Common Core must be the starting point. But an Education Department lawyer argued otherwise.

Courson and Hayes said they were happy that standards writers can review Common Core along with other standards. They also said they wanted more collaboration among the Education Department, overseeing the process of writing the new standards, and the two state boards that ultimately must OK the new standards.

Deputy superintendent Cindy Van Buren said the Education Department’s goal is to have a draft of the new standards ready for approval by December so teachers have time to prepare before the 2015-16 school year, when the new standards must be in place.

Zais, who was out of town, did not attend Thursday’s meeting.

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