COLUMBIA -- Opponents of national education standards asked senators Thursday to block implementation of the math and reading curriculum in South Carolina, while educators around the state argued against putting the breaks on already-approved standards they believe will benefit students.
Sen. Mike Fair's proposal would block standards known as Common Core, which South Carolina's education board adopted in July 2010, following approval by the Education Oversight Committee. Full implementation is set for 2014.
District administrators testified that teachers already are being trained on the new standards.
No action was taken. People were still lined up to speak as time ran out. The next hearing will be Feb. 23.
Common Core outlines what skills students in kindergarten through 12th grade nationwide should learn to be ready for college and careers, replacing the standards that now vary state-to-state. Forty-five states have adopted the curriculum. The initiative was led by governors and superintendents, through the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.
"I'm here to tell you those standards are good standards. Our teachers are embracing them," said Amy Hawkins, a coordinator for middle and high schools in Anderson 5. "Let's not toss these standards to the curb because of outside factors."
Educators say it will allow a true measure of how South Carolina students perform compared to other states, and that students who move from one state to the other won't be playing catch-up to their peers.
But Fair, a member of the Education Oversight Committee, said South Carolina needs to retain control of its standards.
The Greenville Republican questioned whether the initiative is about "trying to make students look good rather than help students become good."
Gov. Nikki Haley supports Fair's bill, as an extension of her frequent complaints of federal overreaching.
"Just as we should not relinquish control of education to the federal government, neither should we cede it to the consensus of other states," she wrote in a letter to Fair, dated Wednesday.
The hearing brought Common Core opponents from groups in Washington, D.C., Boston and California, who argued the new standards are mediocre compared to South Carolina's and that training and testing will be costly. They complain it falls fall short of the intended purpose of making students across the nation more competitive with their peers internationally.
South Carolina educators, however, disagreed, calling the standards strong. Both sides cited studies backing up their perspective.
Once the standards are implemented, South Carolina can't tweak them, said Jane Robbins with the American Principles Project.
"If teachers don't like it or parents don't like it, there's no one to call," she said.
Opponents of the standards derided the shift, for example, from reading literature to more informational texts.
But Hawkins said that's a good thing: "If we want students to be college and career ready, we don't need to spend hours reading the classics."
And Robbie Barnett with the state Chamber of Commerce said its businesses, including international companies in the state, have supported Common Core since 2009.
"We're way down the road to implementing this," he said.
State schools Superintendent Mick Zais said on the campaign trail in 2010 that he didn't support Common Core.
"Rather than personalizing and customizing education as I have championed, the Common Core is a one-size-fits-all solution that does not recognize the different aspirations and interests of students," he said in a release.
But he did not take a stance on Fair's bill. Unless the General Assembly reverses the adoption, "I will fulfill my oath of office to faithfully implement and administer statewide academic standards," he said.