Charleston County School Board members want parents to understand the controversial Common Core State Standards.
Despite uncertainty about whether the new standards will become a reality in South Carolina schools, the district will host public meetings to explain them. The standards outline what students in grades K-12 must know in English language arts and math.
If you go
Meetings for Charleston County parents to learn more about the Common Core State Standards have been scheduled for the second week in February in each of the county's eight constituent school disricts. All meetings start at 6 p.m. and should last about two hours.
St. James-Santee Elem. Feb. 11 cafeteria
Laing Middle Feb. 10 cafeteria
Fort Johnson Middle Feb. 11 media center
North Charleston High Feb. 12 auditorium
Stall High Feb. 13 performing arts center
West Ashley High Feb. 10 auditorium
Burke High Feb. 11 auditorium
Baptist Hill High Feb. 12 cafeteria
Haut Gap Middle Feb. 10 cafeteria
Charleston County School District
The district will spend more than $5,000 to advertise the meetings in four newspapers, including The Post and Courier, and a magazine.
"It's worth every penny," said Tom Ducker, board vice chairman, who has been instrumental in making these meetings happen. "I don't believe the community, including parents, knows a whole lot about Common Core. This is a major transformation of our education system."
The standards are slated to be fully implemented and tested during the 2014-15 school year, but that might not happen. Some state lawmakers have filed legislation that would stop Common Core, and they have the support of Gov. Nikki Haley. This school year is a bridge year, so school districts statewide already are using them in classroom lessons but students won't be tested on them.
Opposition to Common Core has been building in South Carolina and across the country. One of the concerns, particularly among Republicans, is that using Common Core will limit states' rights and essentially allow the federal government to take over a state's education system.
Some liberals also have been critical of the standards because they see them as another high-stakes testing program that doesn't reflect what students should be learning.
Neither Charleston County Superintendent Nancy McGinley nor the school board has taken a position on Common Core. They have said they are mandated to use it, so they will.
Some individual board members, including Ducker, Elizabeth Moffly and Tripp Wiles, are opposed to Common Core. Ducker said it's a one-size-fits-all standard, and that won't benefit high- or low-achieving students.
"It's advertised as being rigorous, and I don't think it's a rigorous standard," Ducker said. "It's going to lower our standards."
Cost also is an issue. South Carolina will have to adopt a new standardized test to use with the standards, and that likely will cost millions. Teachers also will need training on how to teach Common core, which has been passed on to districts. Charleston will spend $1.7 million this school year training teachers on Common Core.
Ducker said he expects opponents of Common Core to be at the public meetings to ask questions, and that will enhance the flow of information.
Board member Michael Miller said parents deserve an opportunity to ask questions and raise concerns.
"We don't want to hear parents say, 'I had no idea what this was or when it was coming,'?" Miller said. "We need to make sure our parents are informed."
Although he has concerns with Common Core, Miller said he sees the standards as a way to boost students' analytical and critical thinking skills.
District staff initially proposed a roughly $15,000 budget to communicate the parent meetings, and those efforts would have included billboards and direct mail. The school board didn't want to spend that much, so the public awareness campaign will cost $5,160. In addition to print advertisements, the district will make public service announcements on TV and radio, do parent link calls weekly, e-mail parents and talk about the meetings with groups such as the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce and the Charleston NAACP.
McGinley said she already had directed schools to make information on Common Core available to parents, but the board wanted another forum to communicate.
"We're going to the community, and we're providing our own personnel, so we're doing it in the most cost-efficient way we can," she said.
Reach Diette Courrégé Casey at @Diette on Twitter or (843) 937-5546.
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