Support of Common Core wanes nationwide, SC lawmaker not surprised

COLUMBIA - A lawmaker from one of the first states to back out of Common Core has a message for those who are considering stepping away from the standards: It can be done.

Sen. Larry Grooms was among the first state lawmakers who started rattling cages after learning the Common Core standards were adopted in South Carolina in 2010 without undergoing the typical cyclical review. With five other states rewriting or attempting to ditch Common Core all together, he said he wasn't surprised to hear of the waning support for the standards.

A new poll sponsored by a Stanford University think tank shows the controversy surrounding the standards has resulted in a drop of support for Common Core, most notably among teachers. The Education Next Survey showed teacher support took a dive from 76 percent in 2013 to 46 percent in 2014.

Grooms said since South Carolina passed a law calling on the review of the state's standards, most of the complaints he's received are of people who wonder why the state didn't make such a move sooner; the rest question why the standards were adopted in the first place.

"The education community surrounded themselves in Common Core and they were convinced that anybody who opposed Common Core was an idiot," Grooms said. "But you can get out. When you're dealing in the realm of facts and logic, you can win."

It's been an uphill political battle to remove Common Core from the state. The topic was at the forefront of the conversation among the eight Republican Superintendent of Education candidates before the June primary.

Also, Superintendent of Education Mick Zais said when rewriting the standards, Common Core wouldn't even be considered, only to have his spokesman say weeks later that the standards would be available for the writing teams.

Meanwhile, there's also a dispute on the interpretation of the law - Act 200, which sought to rid South Carolina of Common Core - going on between the Department of Education, the Board of Education and the Education Oversight Committee.

And the political battle is somewhat concerning, said the Executive Director of the South Carolina Education Association, Roger Smith.

"It's politicized," Smith said of the rewrite process. "There's been a great deal of misinformation put out about Common Core and it's causing states to rewrite the standards or just rename them more or less."

Indeed, critics of Common Core have accused education officials in Florida and Indiana of making insignificant changes to the standards and tagging them with a new name. Yet simply renaming the standards may not be too far off from what the public wants.

To show how using the words "Common Core" politicizes universal standards, the poll asked teachers whether they supported Common Core, which are standards that are the same across the nation; 47 of teachers and 54 percent of the general public said they supported Common Core.

The poll then dropped the words, "Common Core" and asked if they supported standards that are the same across the nation; teacher support increased to 54 percent, while the public's support jumped to 68 percent.

In a prepared statement, Executive Director of the South Carolina Association of School Administrators Molly Spearman said she was "not surprised teachers are frustrated and divided over the issue of standards."

"South Carolina educators are now reviewing and revising those standards to address our State's specific needs," Spearman said. "And that's a very important discussion. I'm confident the final product will be a set of South Carolina standards that will give our children the world-class education they deserve."

Despite the rewrite of the standards that is underway at the education department, Grooms said Common Core still has its supporters. He expects, however, for support to continue to decline.

"They're still hung up on it," said Grooms of Common Core proponents. "But they can't tell you why other than it's about '21st-century global economy' and that our kids should receive a 'world-class education.'"

Reach Cynthia Roldan at 708-5891.