Beaufort County schools prepare to withdraw from Common Core

sbowman@beaufortgazette.comJuly 3, 2014 

Beaufort County's public schools spent much of the past two years implementing Common Core standards.

Now the state has scrapped the program.

In May, South Carolina decided to withdraw the controversial standards it adopted in 2010. The abrupt about-face has many school districts unclear about what comes next and whether the hours spent crafting curriculum and training teachers on Common Core will be wasted.

All schools will continue with Common Core for the coming school year, while the state develops new standards and tests to start in 2015-16.

"It's a time where there are a lot of questions and uncertainty," Beaufort County School District head of instruction Dereck Rhoads said.

The change also means students will be exposed to three different sets of assessment standards in as many years.

Last school year, students in grades three through eight took the Palmetto Assessment of State Standards to determine if they were meeting state standards in English, writing, math, science and social studies.

The state was to switch for the upcoming year to the Smarter Balanced testing consortium but chose to exit the consortium in April. Officials are now working to find a replacement test.

And with Common Core's demise, a third test will be implemented with the new standards.

"These changes can certainly have an impact," Rhoads said. "It takes times for teachers to feel comfortable with knowing the expectations they are expected to help students master, and for students to master those new standards."

A group of educators, parents and business leaders will help the state develop the new standards. Rhoads said Beaufort County has recommended four people for that panel -- two teachers and two administrators. Appointments to the committee will be announced in the coming weeks.

The panel is expected to offer the proposed standards for public comment by November, according to state Department of Education spokesman Dino Teppara. The standards must then be approved by the state Board of Education and the independent Education Oversight Committee, he said.

In the interim, the county school district has focused on standards to ensure students are college- and career-ready, according to Rhoads.

There could be some significant costs for the district associated with updating its curriculum, gathering new materials and training teachers, he said. However, there is no way to know what those costs will be until the new standards are released, he said.

Teachers will have monthly curriculum meetings throughout the next school year on the new standards, Rhoads said. The district hopes to make the transition for students and teachers gradual, to ease the detrimental effects the changes could have.

"If we didn't have the curriculum work that we have going on now, we would be starting from zero," he said. "It would not be effective to try to go from zero to 60 with these changes that are coming and implementing the new standards."

Follow reporter Sarah Bowman on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Sarah.

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