Standards & Testing Won’t Help South Carolina’s Education Problem

Dr. Paul Thomas of Furman University in South Carolina wrote an op/ed for The State.  He said the the Kids Count report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation which examines child well-being shows that perhaps South Carolina needs to focus its resources on something other than standards and testing mandates.

More children are attending preschool, more students are proficient in reading and math, fewer children are born with low birth weights, more have health insurance and there are fewer child and teen deaths, but in all cases the good numbers remain low and the bad numbers high, and children elsewhere are improving more. Meantime, the portion of children living in poverty, with parents who lack secure employment and neither in school nor working rose. So did the portion of children in single-parent families and living in high-poverty areas.

Our state, in short, remains heavily burdened by the negative consequences of poverty and social inequity, complicated factors often reflected in the measurable outcomes of our schools. This report offers South Carolina and its leaders an opportunity to change the discourse about school reform and take bold action that addresses the wide range of social and economic challenges facing our state.

While the data show that social and education reform should remain priorities, they also suggest that social reform is far more pressing than expensive and historically ineffective commitments to new standards and tests that are promoted for education reform.

Children in South Carolina deserve better schools, and our children in poverty remain the students most underserved in those schools. Certainly education reform shouldn’t be set aside, but many school-reform policies are simply wastes of taxpayers’ money and educators’ time — resources that would be better spent on reform that addresses the conditions of teaching and learning and not just more of the same standards-and-testing mandates tried for 30 years now.

We may not agree on every solution, but I agree with him that the Common Core State Standards and reforms like it will not do anything to address student achievement when there are so many factors outside of school that impact it.