Even before the legislative session began, South Dakotans were talking about Common Core. Last year, after a few media outlets released some unsettling reports, groups across the state gathered to discuss the new standards and learn more.
I can understand why people may be inclined to be wary of the standards. A general opposition to federal interference in education and a strong belief in local control of our schools have led many to question Common Core. Given the past few decades of federal intrusion into education and the growth of the federal government, an inclination toward suspicion is perfectly reasonable.
But that's not what's happening here.
The Common Core State Standards were not written by the federal government and are not required by the federal government. South Dakota receives no federal funds that were contingent on adopting the Common Core standards. The standards are the product of a state-led effort by governors and chief education leaders to provide a clear and rigorous set of academic standards.
The standards, adopted by South Dakota in 2010, lay out expectations in math and English only. They are broad benchmarks that students should be meeting at each grade level. The standards are not a curriculum and do not require schools to use or study any particular books. All curriculum decisions remain with local schools and teachers.
There have been many bills introduced this legislative session because of concerns with Common Core -- and I support some of those efforts. Senate Bill 63, for example, prohibits the state from sharing individual student data with the federal government. I agree that individual student data should remain confidential, and I hope we will all work together this year to protect our students.
I hope you will read the standards for yourself before drawing conclusions on Common Core. You can find the standards at commoncore.sd.gov by clicking on "What are the standards."
We need to have content standards. We need standards that are rigorous. We need our students to learn English and math, and we also need them to learn how to think independently and solve problems in real-world situations. These were the goals of those who wrote, evaluated and adopted the Common Core standards. I support those goals and believe the new standards will bring us closer to achieving them.