Common Core is “Just the next Federal attempt to herd states and our children into a one-size- fits-all standard.”
The February luncheon of the Greenville Republican Women had the future of education of South Carolina as the topic. The speakers consisted of State Superintendent of Education Mick Zais, and Superintendent candidates Charmeka Childs, and Sheri Few. With the bridge year of Common Core State Standards upon the state of SC and the full implementation year closely approaching, the topic was touched by every speaker.
Zais, a Republican who campaigned against Common Core four years ago, has a firm belief that all children cannot be taught through a one size fits all curriculum.
“While every child is special, every child is different. Different ability, motivation, the rate at which they mature, their interest, their skill set, their personality, their aspirations and their home environment. Despite these enormous differences our traditional school system puts every child in the same classroom, expects them to learn the same material, on the same schedule pretty much in the same way. And we act surprised when that doesn’t work for 35% of our students,” said Zais.
Currently Zais is working on the Transformation School District through the General Assembly. With failing schools comes more funding and sometimes leaders don’t want to give up the money or the power. Zais is in the process of developing an Educator Accountability System that will allow for consequences of failure.
“It’s the competence of the adults in the system, and right now there are no consequences for failure. In fact if your school fails you get more money. We want a system that recognizes and rewards great teachers who produce incredible gains,” said Zais.
The new system will help those average teachers become above average or great, and identifies the small percentage of teachers that aren’t helping kids learn. Flexibility will also be offered to the schools to move these failing teachers out of the classroom.
Expanding choice by funding students and not districts or schools is another topic Zais is working on. Zais feels that it is sad that almost everything in public education is free with the exception of the freedom of parents to choose where, how and by whom their children are educated.
“We need to fund students so that the dollars can follow the child through school in the school of their choice because every child is different and no one school works for every child which is why parents should have a menu of options when choosing a school,” said Zais.
Childs was also in attendance to talk about her credibility as a candidate for the soon to be vacant spot of South Carolina School Superintendent. As a former Deputy of the Superintendent, Childs has worked closely with Zais. She is a former teacher, mentor and a military wife. She informed those in attendance that her parents instilled the belief, at a young age, that if someone works hard and perseveres, and if they take advantage of great educational opportunities, they can have all that America has to offer.
Childs followed her parents’ advice and worked hard to get into Duke University largely on scholarships. Childs received an undergraduate in History and a Masters in Public Policy while receiving her education license. After graduation Childs moved back to SC and became a public school teacher.
“I enjoyed my time as a teacher. I learned the importance of working with students, parents and working with education and community leadership. I saw, while in the classroom, the impact policy has in the classroom,” said Childs.
The lessons Childs learned in the classroom remain with her to this day and shape her approach to policy formation. After leaving teaching, Childs went to work for Governor Mark Sanford’s staff as his education policy advisor. She left Sanford’s office and went into the private sector where she worked with business and industry leadership.
“In my service with business and industry leadership I learned a great deal about how what we’re doing in education has a huge impact on our workforce development. That will affect our long term economic viability. If we’re going to be strong, if we’re going to be competitive as a state, we have to focus on what is happening in our schools,” said Childs.
While working in the private sector Childs was appointed to the education oversight committee where she voted against Common Core State Standards. After leaving the private sector Childs worked with Zais as his deputy superintendent until January of 2014.
“In the service that I have offered our state working with educational policy, both in the local and the state level, a few things have become clear. One we need to commend our schools for the hard work they’re doing when they are preparing students well for what they face when they leave high school, but we also have to acknowledge that far too many students are not graduating high school,” said Childs.
As the State Superintendent, Childs says she will work hard to ensure that each young adult receives a high school diploma in our state and is truly prepared for what they will face when they leave high school. Childs feels that the high school diploma should mean that someone is prepared for work or college and also ready for citizenship.
There are five areas that Childs wants to focus on as State Superintendent. Those areas are making sure that we bring accountability to every classroom, focusing on individualizing education, protecting the powers that are enumerated by our state by eliminating federal overreach in public education, to work on attracting effective teachers, and improving opportunity by reinvigorating community involvement.
“We need all hands on deck and I believe as State Superintendent that it is important to lend your voice to help encourage these sorts of activities,” said Childs.
Sheri Few was also in attendance to address her candidacy for SC State Superintendent. Few is the mother of three boys who all attended public school. Because of her involvement in public school, Few founded the non-profit organization SC Parents Involved in Education (SCPIE)13 years ago. The organization is based on standards that were felt to be troublesome.
For the past 12 months Few said that her organization has led the fight against Common Core. Few is for school choice and doesn’t believe that Common Core is here to stay and there is hope in having it repealed.
“There’s really nothing good about common core except for the fact that it has caused parents and other education stakeholders to wake up and see, to look deeper into what is happening in public education. It’s just the next federal attempt to herd states and our children into a one-size-fits-all standard,” said Few.
As State Superintendent, after all roots of Common Core have been removed, Few wants to develop a task force that will review every South Carolina text book that has been adopted in the state and will have experts review the material for truth and bias. If falsehoods are found, Few wants to bring it to the people and if parents agree the matter will be brought before the Legislature.