Now that the Legislature is in session, the time-wasting machine is kicking into gear. Senate Bills 62, 63, and 64 start what I feared: a cycle of time wasted misfocused on analyzing the Common Core standards instead of implementing real reforms in education.
Senate Bill 62 creates a 23-person committee (oh yes, that will be productive) to produce the following comparisons:
- Comparison of the substance of previous South Dakota math and English language arts content standards to the common core state standards;
- Comparison of the Smarter Balanced assessment to the DakotaSTEP assessment; and
- Comparison of the fiscal impact of fully implementing the common core state standards to alternative standards.
Sigh. The fiscal train has already left the station. The Common Core standards are already being implemented. If the Legislature were serious about studying Common Core, they'd have done Senate Bill 62 in the 2011 session, right after the South Dakota Board of Education moved to adopt them.
Senate Bill 62 also misses the main philosophical point of contention. Sponsors Senator Ernie Otten (R-6/Tea) and Rep. Jacqueline Sly (R-33/Rapid City) are simply charging the sprawling committee to decide which top-down standards we ought to impose, not challenging the question of whether the state ought to be imposing any top-down standards on K-12 schools.
Senate Bill 63 ignores educational progress entirely and panders to the anti-Common Core paranoia about the alleged massive database that collects student data and subjects them to... well, what, really? Fine. Pass it. What difference will it make to graduation rates? And will Senator Otten (yup, SB 63 is his baby, too) follow through with his commitment o privacy by getting rid of all the document requirements for driver's licenses, or by advocating nullification of the Patriot Act and NSA surveillance?
Senate Bill 64 fritters further around the edges, trying to tell the Department of Education that they can't implement Common Core standards or any other standards drafted by multi-state consortia until July 1, 2016. However, any content standards already in the chute, drafted and finalized prior to July 1 of this year, are unaffected... which means that SB 64 doesn't stop Common Core. Schools like Spearfish should have their responses to Common Core finalized by the end of this school year; next fall comes full implementation of what we've already written.
Senator Otten and his co-sponsors are going to waste a lot of the Legislature's time with these three bills. If they pass, they will also waste a lot of education officials' time by reinventing the wheel and missing the point. Otten's bills make a political statement, but they do nothing to put resources toward real policies that will improve the ability of teachers to teach and students to learn.