COLUMBIA - Miscommunication and different interpretations of a law crafted to rid South Carolina of Common Core triggered a meeting Thursday, where education officials attempted to hash out what is going on.
State Board of Education Chair Barry Bolen said the Department of Education and the Education Oversight Committee, or EOC, are going in two different directions in working on the state's education standards.
South Carolina passed legislation that requires the state to develop new standards to implement during the 2015-16 school year. The EOC is reviewing current standards and has invited the public to comment on them online through the end of September. Meanwhile, a team of experts tasked with writing the Math and English Language Arts standards has been assembled by the Department of Education; the math team met last week and the English team meets Wednesday.
But Superintendent of Education Mick Zais said in June he would push for the writing teams to not use Common Core, and to instead use the state's previous standards as a model. That's where Bolen voiced concern.
"If they take the position, 'we're not even going to consider Common Core,' then you've got a problem," Bolen said. "It just needs to be considered. Those standards need to be reviewed."
Plus, there was miscommunication between the department of education and the board. Bolen said the department, without any discussion with the board, created the writing teams. The law, he argued, states the review process calls for the involvement of the board and the EOC.
Deputy Superintendent of Education Cindy Van Buren said the lack of communication was not based on ill intent, but on the fact that the teams are working on a compressed timeline. The writing teams are scheduled to meet for an estimated 23 days, she said.
"The bill got signed into law and we felt like we had to act on it," Van Buren said. "We're just trying to implement Act 200 as we understand it. What we don't want is for anybody to say 'South Carolina took Common Core, changed the name on the document to South Carolina and handed it back to us.'"
Zais has since learned the law passed by the legislature does not bar the teams from using Common Core standards, among others, as models to write the state's new standards. Dino Teppara, the DOE's spokesman, said Thursday that Zais may have unartfully said the department was not going to simply rebrand Common Core.
"I think that's what he was really trying to focus on," Teppara said. "We are going to start off with a clean slate. They just said we want to look at everything and write the best standards possible."
Ideally, the teams will look at all standards, including those in Common Core, and come up with a new set of homegrown standards that are college and career ready, said EOC Executive Director Melanie Barton. All sides agreed on Thursday to improve communication. They also agreed they're going to figure out the process together. "I've heard the state department staff change their approach in that they will consider Common Core," Bolen said. "If I hear something different on Aug. 13, then I guess we'll deal with it then."
Reach Cynthia Roldan at 708-5891.