Common Core Main Topic for South Dakota 2014 Legislative Season

Common Core Main Topic for South Dakota 2014 Legislative Season

The 2014 South Dakota legislative year will concentrate on education with an emphasis on the controversial Common Core standards. In the spring, the Department of Education will begin using tests based on Common Core in math and English, and legislators want to stop it from spreading to other subjects.

“I never dreamed it would gain this much traction,” Rep. Jim Bolin, R-Canton said of the opposition. “There’s a lot of energy behind this, there really is. It’s very organic. It’s really coming from the grassroots. It ranges from skepticism to downright opposition. It’s really kind of a populist thing.”

Bolin was one of the main opponents when the state adopted Common Core in November 2010. Now teachers and parents are speaking out against it. Argus Leader‘s columnist Jonathan Ellis published a piece about a recent math problem from his daughter’s homework.

Earlier this year, my daughter needed help with her math homework. I read the problem. Reread the problem. And reread the problem.

The words were in English, sure enough. But they might as well have been in Swahili.

Common Core emphasizes critical-thinking skills and problem solving over memorization and other traditional aspects of education. I memorized the multiplication table in grade school, and I’m uneasy that my daughter is not doing the same.

From what I could gather of her homework assignment, she was supposed to solve the problems grouping numbers and drawing pictures. In other words, working on different concepts to solve the problem.

When I suggested that she stack the two numbers and solve the problem that way, I got a blank look. That is not, apparently, how they teach students to solve math problems under Common Core. So much for the simple algorithm.

The South Dakota Family Policy Council and Concerned Women for America in South Dakota held a meeting on January 7 and said Common Core is the top issue in the state. Mary Scheel Buysee, president of South Dakotans Against Common Core, claimed the program will treat the students the same.

“The Common Core is truly workforce training. It won’t be long and it will be just like Germany, everything that happens in school will align you and you will be told what you can and cannot do,” she said. “Millions of students will be lost in a ‘one-size fits all curriculum.’ “

There is also concern among the parents and the groups about control of the curriculum. Since the federal government provides the funds they are in control. The parents will not have a say or be able to alter anything. 

South Dakota will keep their state science standards. It will face assessments during the rest of the school year, but the state will not change to the Common Core standards for the subject.