State Senate Education Subcommittee holds vote on Common Core bill to consider ‘compromise’

The South Carolina Senate’s K-12 Education Subcommittee chose during a Wednesday meeting to delay a vote on legislation that would repeal Common Core State Standards.

The decision came after Sen. Mike Fair introduced a proposed amendment to SB 300, which would repeal Common Core.

“For me it was a compromise with myself,” Fair told the committee. “This is where many of us find ourselves.”

Fair wanted to create what he called a hybrid bill that would keep the standards for math as well as English and language arts but would eliminate the mandated assessments. It would offer a compromise that would not disrupt the work that has been done over the past several years to prepare the state’s students for full implementation of the standards this fall.

“I’m not for the standards. But I will have become a RINO (Republican In Name Only) by the crowd out here,” Fair said in regards to Common Core opponents who attended the meeting.

The proposal includes a data privacy amendment that would prohibit state agencies from providing student information to the U.S. Department of Education in an attempt to address concerns about potential data mining.

Another provision would require a cyclical review of the math and English language arts standards after 2016 to give the state’s curriculum writers an opportunity to keep, change or get rid of parts of Common Core.

“I didn’t like the fact that non-South Carolinians were writing the standards,” Fair said.

The proposal also would include language in SB 0888, which would give the Education Oversight Committee and General Assembly the right to vote on any statewide academic standard unless it was created by the state education department.

A third amendment would pull the state out of the testing requirement.

South Carolina was among several states that chose to join the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium — one of two test modules that would test students on the Common Core Standards. The other consortium was the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career, known as PARCC.

The Smarter Balanced test is set to be released this fall, which Common Core opponents want to prevent.

“The Smarter Balanced test is just repugnant to lots of people,” Fair said. “We’ll sever that relationship.”

Smarter Balanced assessments also force school districts to either expand their bandwidth to accommodate the testing period or lengthen testing time beginning at 12 weeks out from the last day of school. The approach would stagger students taking the test, which Fair argued would give advantage to last test takers.

“Kids at the very end will benefit from the sacrificial lambs,” Fair said.

Fair argued that the Smarter Balanced tests could not be compared for rigor because of adaptive testing — a test structure that gives test-takers easy or difficult questions based on how a person scored on the previous question.

“You can’t compare row to row,” he said.

The committee agreed to postpone voting until next week to give committee members time to review the amendments and hear from their constituents.

Sen. Larry Grooms, who sponsored SB 300, talked to supporters of his bill after the meeting and urged them to talk to their legislators and reach out to the full Senate Education Committee.

This will be the second test for Grooms’ bill to gain traction among lawmakers. He sponsored a similar bill in 2011 that failed to move out of committee.

Grooms said legislative session offers very little time for the bill to reach the full assembly. He said May 1 is the deadline a bill must be voted on by either chamber to have a chance to be approved. The bill also would have to wait its turn behind several other bills before it could be brought to the House or Senate.

“My fear is we do nothing this year and then we move into the next year,” Grooms said.

“If nothing happens this year, the Smarter Balanced assessments will be given to every school district, and we don’t know the costs,” he said.