No Child Left Behind, Race To The Top. Common Core State Standards. While there are many problems with these “college and career ready” standards that are treating our children and teachers like crash-test dummies, the largest flaw lies in the process that gives parents, teachers and children no say.
In the end, the choices about what our children will be taught and how they will be tested should remain in the hands of the locales in which they reside.
In July of 2010, the course for the education for every child in South Carolina was charted with two signatures. Gov. Mark Sanford, who at the time was rather distracted with his own personal affairs, and then-Education Superintendent Jim Rex, who signed South Carolina up for Common Core.
It seems inconceivable that something so important can be decided by just two people. But in South Carolina, the structure of power makes it very difficult for citizens to impact our education standards.
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South Carolina’s Education Accountability Act of 1998 gives the State Board of Education and the Education Oversight Committee, neither of which is accountable to an individual public official, the power to develop and approve statewide academic standards and assessments for K-12 education.
The Board of Education consists of 17 members — one appointed by the governor and one appointed by the legislative delegation from each of the state’s 16 judicial circuits. Even less accountable is the EOC, which consists of six lawmakers, the governor, five members of the business community (four appointed by legislators, one by the governor), five members from the education community (appointed in the same manner as the business reps) and the state superintendent of education — who, oddly, doesn’t get a vote.
Decision-making is heavily concentrated within these two bodies that have no accountability to any office holder. Because these are appointed seats, the public has no elected official to hold responsible when the boards make decisions that are not the will of the people.
There’s plenty of evidence of attempts by citizens to make their voices heard. What’s missing is a government that feels a responsibility to listen and respond accordingly. Instead of the government being the servant of the people as was the intent in the American experiment, the government has come to put us on the outside. I have first-hand experience of this: I had a member of the EOC publicly mock me for my worries about these standards.
While the Common Core State Standards are unacceptable, what is paramount to address is the structure through which these standards were forced upon our residents. Until we return the balance of power to those who are most invested in academics — students, parents and educators — we will have one wave of attack after another upon the institution of public education in South Carolina.
The remedy to the Common Core State Standards lies not only in a new set of curricula, but ultimately in a new process by which we make choices for the future of education in South Carolina.