SC is Out of Smarter Balanced, Superintendent’s Race Focused on Common Core

This is a little anticlimactic, especially after reporting that the South Carolina Department of Education was taking steps to pull out of Smarter Balanced earlier this month.  I’m a little late to the party updating this story, but last week The Post and Courier reported that South Carolina Superintendent of Education informed the State Board of Education that they are pulling out.

South Carolina’s top education administrator has decided to withdraw the state from the consortium that would test Common Core standards in the coming school year.

In a letter sent to the chairman of the State Board of Education on Monday, Superintendent of Education Mick Zais said he learned he has the authority to withdraw the state from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and was exercising his power to do so.

“I am not wed to any particular test,” wrote Zais in the letter. “I want to have a high quality assessment that meets the specific needs of South Carolina, at a competitive price. If we continue to focus only on Smarter Balanced, we lose any opportunity to consider alternatives.” Jackie Hicks, president of The South Carolina Education Association said Zais “has proclaimed himself State School Czar,” adding Zais has placed his “extreme political agenda ahead of what’s best for our students.”

The Common Core standards and the tests to measure their effectiveness have come under fire in a number of states, including South Carolina, as a way to nationalize eduction, and standardize curriculum at the state level. Legislators, educators and political candidates are coming down on both sides of the issue.

“We are in the middle of a political battle here,” said Hicks through a written statement. “It’s extremely counter-productive now to abandon a vetted strategy mid-course.”

South Carolina’s students were scheduled to be tested by Smarter Balanced during the 2014-15 school year. Trial testing started last month. The Common Core standards are currently being taught and are due to be fully enacted next year.

Incidentally Zais is not running for reelection, Common Core is the issue in the Superintendent’s race.  Sheri Few, who is  a Republican candidate seeking the office, is running on a Stop Common Core platform.