Common Core Is Dead In SC… Or Is It?

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Blake Neff Reporter
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Officially, Common Core is dead in South Carolina, wiped out Wednesday by a vote of the state board of education.

However, leaders of the state’s anti-Common Core movement are anything but happy, saying the state is being tricked by a bait-and-switch tactic that replaces the standards with something nearly identical.

Sheri Few, the head of South Carolina Parents Involved in Education and a top campaigner against Common Core in the state, says that while the new South Carolina College and Career-Ready standards have a different name, that’s about all that’s different about them.

“The state board of education has totally ignored the parents and taxpayers of this state,” Few told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

She pointed to an analysis done by the state’s Education Oversight Committee that compared how similar the new SC College and Career-Ready standards are to Common Core. According to that analysis, 92 percent of South Carolina’s new math standards are aligned with Common Core, along with 89 percent of the English standards.

The list of major changes is relatively short for both subjects. In English, students are now expected to learn cursive, and an appendix listing sample texts for each grade has been eliminated (some complained certain texts were inappropriate). In math, multiplication tables have been added and high school standards are differentiated by subject rather than grade level. Other than that, changes are mostly in wording rather than content.

According to Few, that means most of the glaring problems she sees with Common Core remain. The standards are far too demanding of those in early grades, she said, while abruptly slowing down for those in high school.

Johnnelle Raines, another Common Core foe in the state who taught first grade for 29 years, said that several factors likely influenced the state’s failure to make a more dramatic break. She said members of the redesign committee kept the old standards on hand to work with rather than starting from scratch, and argued that the teachers chosen for the committee were partly selected based on how open they were to the existing system.

“I don’t want to use the word rigged, but I don’t think it was done as fair as it could be,” Raines told TheDCNF. She also said that teachers may simply have desired to make switching to new standards relatively painless rather than having to spend years working on a more ambitious overhaul.

Few, meanwhile, put blame on newly elected Republican schools superintendent Molly Spearman, who was elected last year on an anti-Common Core platform.

“She knows as well as I do that she was never opposed to Common Core,” Few said. “She said it to get elected.”

Another factor in play? The Obama administration.


Both Few and Raines said the creation of new standards was rushed in order to avoid endangering the state’s No Child Left Behind waiver, which requires maintaining “college and career-ready standards.” Loss of the waiver could mean losing control over millions of dollars in federal funds.

The complaints in South Carolina bear a strong similarity to those seen in Indiana. That state replaced Common Core last year, but critics decried the state’s new standards as just a rebranding.

Claims that new standards aren’t changing much aren’t limited to anti-Common Core diehards. In fact, supporters of the standards have said the same thing, arguing that the similarity of replacement standards to the old Core simply shows that Common Core hews closely to what a set of rigorous standards should look like.

Michael Petrilli and Michael Brickman of the Thomas Fordham Institute, a center-right think tank that supports the Core, wrote in the Washington Post in December that Indiana’s rebranding simply showed that good standards will always resemble Common Core.

“The basic problem is that it’s impossible to draft standards that prepare students for college and career readiness and that look nothing like Common Core,” the two wrote.

“That’s because Common Core, though not perfect, represents a good-faith effort to incorporate the current evidence of what students need to know and do to succeed in credit-bearing courses in college or to land a good-paying job — and the milestones younger students need to pass to reach those goals. That’s why states that are sincere about wanting to aim higher would be smart to start with Common Core as a base for additions or modifications.”

Few says that she has little hope the South Carolina legislature will look at the matter again, as it was rallied to address the matter in 2014 and has since moved on. Going forward, she said, foes of Common Core will encourage parents to boycott state standardized tests, something thousands of parents have done in other states as well.

“We’ve been driven to civil disobedience,” she said.

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