COLUMBIA - Changes to South Carolina's education standards will be ready by the time the General Assembly returns in January, an education official said Monday.
Melanie Barton, executive director of the South Carolina Education Oversight Committee, told committee members that changes to the state's standards are on the fast track to receive the necessary modifications.
The Senate in May unanimously approved a bill to replace Common Core education standards with those homegrown in South Carolina by the 2015-16 school year. But Barton stressed the changes made to the state's standards will be just that - changes.
"I wouldn't say it's going to be a total rewrite," Barton said. "We don't have time to do that."
She said the committee will review the standards for specific changes and modify them as needed, such as adding cursive writing and the memorization of multiplication tables. The committee will be receiving feedback from teachers on changes as well.
Superintendent of Education Mick Zais said he's looking forward to the changes. Zais has been against the adoption of Common Core since its introduction.
"I've been saying for four years that Common Core, basically, is a one-size-fits-all curriculum, and that we need more flexibility in what kids learn and how they learn because they're all different," Zais said.
He said he plans to advocate for the modification of the state's current standards, instead of rewriting the Common Core standards.
Barton said a full rewrite of the standards will be done in the future. But right now, changes of the standards must be fast tracked because there's not a lot of time. As for what test South Carolina's students will be taking next year, Barton said the committee could have an answer as early as August.
Zais withdrew South Carolina from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium in April. Lawmakers later passed a bill that bans the state from the adopting or administering Smarter Balanced's test.
Common Core standards define what students in all grades must learn in reading and math. Because what students are learning will be changing, the state needs new standardized exams to evaluate them, which is where Smarter Balanced's tests came in.
South Carolina's students, however, could still see a Smarter Balanced-influenced test. The company that wins the bid to administer the tests could ask Smarter Balanced for some of its test elements - such as test questions or the design of the test - to create a new assessment for South Carolina.
Smarter Balanced tests measure the effectiveness of Common Core standards. Both have come under fire in a number of states, including South Carolina, as a way to nationalize education and standardize curriculum at the state level. Legislators, educators and political candidates are coming down on both sides of the issue.
South Carolina's students were scheduled to be tested with Smarter Balanced assessments during the 2014-15 school year. Trial testing started in March. The Common Core standards are currently being taught and are due to be fully enacted next year.
The Associated Press contributed to this story. Cynthia Roldan can be reached at 708-5891.
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