Bluffton parent Chris Davey opposes the use of grade floors and worries about his eighth-grade daughter's performance on standardized tests under changing state curriculum standards.
"By the time I graduated college, the engineering program I was in was revamped and I was basically obsolete," Davey said. "I'm concerned for her future that she's going to experience the same trouble and have low test scores as she tries to get into college, because she's struggling to get caught up" on new, more rigorous material.
South Carolina is among 45 states and the District of Columbia that have agreed to impose more rigorous English and mathematics standards developed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, with a focus on critical thinking and primary investigation.
The goal is to provide high standards consistent across states, giving teachers, parents and students clear expectations on the knowledge and skills students need to be college- and career-ready.
South Carolina adopted the standards in 2010. Beaufort County teachers over the last two years have gradually added the standards to their lesson plans. County elementary schools switched to the new curriculum this year, with full implementation slated for the 2014-15 school year.
The curriculum requires students to use math to analyze realistic problems, understand them better and make decisions. It also requires students to read more nonfiction, explore concepts at a deeper level and communicate their understanding through writing, speaking and problem-solving, said district chief instructional officer Dereck Rhoads.
Davey's worries mirror those of a group of more than 50 parents and teachers who gathered Tuesday night at Bluffton Town Hall for a forum organized by five Beaufort County Board of Education members who represent parts of Bluffton and Okatie.
Davey and other parents appreciated being informed about the looming curriculum changes but were disappointed by the board's response to worries about falling test scores.
"They understood, but it didn't sound like there were a lot of solutions to avoid it," Davey said. "They said there were going to be growing pains, and kept apologizing ahead of time for lower test scores coming up ... which is very concerning for a parent. ... I'm just afraid the foundation (my daughter) has had the last eight years isn't going to be there to support her for the next four years."
Parents also addressed, and board members acknowledged, the need for better communication with the district -- particularly on preparing children for the new standards.
"The board has been talking about that and looking at ways to improve the (district's) website ... and whatever we can do to get the word out," board vice chairwoman Mary Cordray said after the meeting.
"The schools belong to the community and the parents, and we need to know what they think and what they're looking for. I value this type of exchange."
Bluffton school board member Laura Bush said the group plans to hold another forum, possibly in August, that will include incoming superintendent Jeffrey Moss.