By Robert Kittle

South Carolina opponents of the national Common Core Standards for state schools are urging parents to keep their children out of school on Monday, November 18, to protest the standards. Opponents will rally at 10 a.m. at the state Department of Education headquarters in Columbia.

The Common Core State Standards were developed as a way to make sure that students in every state are learning what they need to in order to compete nationally and globally. The idea is that, if each state has its own standards, it's difficult if not impossible to know whether students in one state are ahead of or behind students in other states.

South Carolina has already implemented most of the standards, which are in math and English, and the rest will be phased in next year.

But there are vocal critics nationwide and in South Carolina. Sheri Few, president of South Carolina Parents Involved in Education, says, "They were developed by a small group of individuals, primarily testing companies: the ACT, The College Board, and a group called Achieve. There was only one teacher among the entire group that helped to develop the standards."

While it's true that the ACT and The College Board, which administers the SAT, did have representatives who worked on the standards, it's not true that only one teacher in the group. You can see the list of people who worked on the standards here.

There were five classroom teachers who worked on the math standards, along with other K-12 educators, plus 21 college math professors.

Critics also say classic literature will be taken out of English classes because the Common Core Standards require at least 50 percent of reading material to be informational texts.

That's also false. The standards do require 50 percent of reading to be informational texts, but reading that students do in history, math, science and other classes counts toward that total, which leaves English to focus on literature and literary non-fiction. In fact, the standards say that English classes must focus on those.

Some of the critics say they're already seeing problems caused by the standards. Rachel Cambre decided to home-school one of her children because he wasn't grasping math the way it's now being taught. She says, "The teachers have to meet those standards and they can't bring in supplemental information, because they can only add up to 15% of their own content. So how's a teacher going to expand on a topic if they can only add up to 15%?"

It's true that the standards are copyrighted material so schools are limited in how much they can change it. But those who created Common Core say the standards dictate only what the teacher must teach, not how, so there's still plenty of room for creativity.

With the math standards, parents are also worried about "fuzzy" math. Parent Julie Weaver says, "There's no longer one right answer to a math problem. As long as you can explain how you arrived at that answer, you will get 100 percent on your test. Two plus two does not equal four any longer. If you can explain to how you think that got to six, that 2+2=6, good job. You get 100."

But Linda Gojak, president of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, which supports the Common Core Standards, denies that the standards allow for wrong answers. She told that the standards help children learn the process instead of just memorizing a step-by-step sequence.

Since the Common Core Standards have already been adopted, opponents are hoping that South Carolina lawmakers will pass a bill to repeal them. There are several bills already in the pipeline at the Statehouse to do that.

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