South Carolina's Department of Education is moving at full speed in its effort to rewrite the state's standards of education.
Members of the state's Board of Education are expecting to vote on math and English language arts standards educators will use for teaching students during the 2015-16 school year as early as December, with a team of writers producing the new standards no later than August, said Larry Kobrovsky, who represents Charleston and Berkeley counties on the board.
Kobrovsky said the department is acting swiftly in anticipation of the leadership change at the end of the year, when the term of Superintendent of Education Mick Zais comes to an end. Zais has been a strong opponent of Common Core standards since their adoption by the board.
"The dynamics will shift after December," Kobrovsky said. "The new superintendent will likely not oppose Common Core."
Many people oppose Common Core as a nationalization of public education, though it's not federal. The initiative was led by governors and superintendents, through the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. However, the Obama administration encouraged states to sign on through incentives.
Common Core outlines what skills students in kindergarten through 12th grade should learn to be ready for college and careers, replacing standards that varied state to state.
To be clear, South Carolina did pass legislation that requires the state to develop new standards. The fear, however, is that the new standards will end up resembling Common Core's.
Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Charleston, who has pushed for the repeal of Common Core since 2010, says the state is not in the business of rebranding standards; critics have accused Indiana and Florida of mirroring Common Core standards and simply attaching a new name to them to appease opponents.
"There are a lot of people who are suspicious that we'll end up like Indiana," Grooms said. "We came away very satisfied that the state Department of Education is working earnestly to develop very rigorous standards that don't follow a Common Core philosophy."
Grooms said despite misinformation being spread, the Department of Education is doing what the legislature tasked them to do: develop new standards. He added he is very pleased with where the state is right now, after he spent years battling the standards. Grooms introduced legislation that would have repealed Common Core.
Meanwhile, the state's Education Oversight Committee is reviewing current standards and has invited the public to comment on them online through the end of September, said Dana Yow, EOC director of communications and community involvement. The committee is also assembling a panel to review the standards.
"People can go into every single standard and say what they think should change," Yow said. "The EOC will make formal recommendations to the State Board of Education and the (department of education) as the process continues."
The Department of Education is also taking nominations for a task force that will review the new standards, probably in November, before they go for a vote in December. The nomination period ends July 18.
"We're trying to be very transparent during this process," said Dino Teppara, spokesman for the DOE. "We feel very confident that we've taken a very open approach."
Teppara noted that the Common Core standards did not undergo this kind of scrutiny in 2010. Despite the department's transparency efforts, Grooms added there is still a large group of people suspicious of everything government does.
Kobrovsky said the team of experts writing the new standards will hopefully take the best of the state's past and current standards to create what's best for South Carolina's students. But that remains to be seen until the standard writers provide drafts.
"If they adopt the Common Core and just give it another name, it would be problematic," Kobrovsky said. "The majority of the board, me not among them, is supportive of Common Core."
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Reach Cynthia Roldan at 708-5891.
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