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South Dakota Follows Most States in ‘Rebranding’ Common Core Standards

In this Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015 photo, a student works in an eight grade algebra class at Holy Spirit School in East Greenbush, N.Y. The Diocese of Albany, New York, announced recently that it will reduce the frequency of the Common Core-aligned tests while sticking with the standards. The decision …
AP Photo/Mike Groll

South Dakota’s education secretary says the state has officially eliminated the Common Core standards, but a review shows the replacement standards are nearly 75 percent equivalent to the controversial federally incentivized program.

“Common Core standards in South Dakota are officially gone,” said state Secretary of Education Don Kirkegaard, according to the Argus Leader, but the report adds:

About 60 percent of the K-12 English language arts and math standards approved by the state Board of Education in Pierre last week were taken verbatim from Common Core, according to an Argus Leader analysis.

A line-by-line review showed that, in addition to the bullet points taken verbatim, those changed within a few words of the original Common Core language made up nearly 75 percent of the state’s updated standards.

The rebranded standards are called “South Dakota State Standards” and will be put in place in the fall of this year.

“We don’t call it ‘Common Core,’ but the ghosts are there,” said Art Marmorstein, a Northern State University professor who promotes local control of education.

South Dakota’s story is not unlike that of many other states whose parents, teachers, and citizens at large have attempted to get rid of Common Core.

Slick state leaders from both parties have sought to eradicate the “toxic” Common Core name from their education websites but were unwilling to give up the federal funding and the waivers from onerous federal regulations attached to the program. Additionally, states and school districts had spent millions on textbooks, digital learning platforms, and state standardized tests – all aligned with Common Core. As a result, there was no real incentive to get rid of Common Core – just make it appear so for political purposes.

In 2014, then-Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana and his Education Roundtable drew the ire of grassroots parents when they recommended a “rebrand” of Common Core as the new state standards.

Standards expert Dr. Sandra Stotsky, professor emerita at Arkansas University, told Breitbart News at the time that Pence personally asked her to assist in the evaluation process of the state’s new standards. When she saw, however, that the drafts of the new standards were “almost identical to Common Core,” she said she “almost fell off [her] chair.”

In 2015, South Carolina announced Common Core was “dead,” but the state’s own oversight committee admitted the “new” replacement standards were 90 percent aligned with Common Core.

In 2017, the Arizona state board of education also voted to “rebrand” Common Core.

“Common Core has at last been eliminated,” said Arizona schools Superintendent Diane Douglas – who actually campaigned on an anti-Common Core platform. “[W]e now have excellent ELA and math standards developed by Arizonans for Arizona students.”

Shane Vander Hart of Truth in American Education, however, observed few changes in the standards.

“There have been some technical changes, but as far as I can see most of the foundational problems still exist,” he wrote. “The early elementary standards are still age-inappropriate. There is still an over emphasis on informational text. The math standards still do not adequately prepare students for STEM programs in college.”

“It’s unfortunate that Superintendent Diane Douglas, who campaigned on ending Common Core, put her stamp of approval on this process and these standards,” Vander Hart added. “It is also disconcerting that these standards were voted on instead of allowing an additional month of review and public comment. Arizona can do better than this.”

Former Republican Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee urged the “rebranding” idea in late 2013. Huckabee told members of the Council of Chief State School Officers – one of the owners of the Common Core standards copyright – they needed to get rid of the Common Core name because it had grown “toxic.”

“Rebrand it, refocus it, but don’t retreat,” Huckabee reportedly said.

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has also boarded the “Common Core is dead” bandwagon. DeVos announced in January that “at the U.S. Department of Education, Common Core is dead.”

Vander Hart wrote, however, that the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) – engineered by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA) – essentially cemented Common Core into every state in the country.

“Sure, the U.S. Department of Education is not actively pushing Common Core, they don’t need to,” he explained. “The standards and assessment consortiums don’t need to be funded anymore. The damage is done. They don’t need to publicly push it because ESSA essentially codified Common Core.”

Public support for Common Core fell to a record low in 2016 when it dropped to 50 percent, down from 58 percent in 2015 and from 83 percent in 2013.

Nevertheless, Education Dive noted that Timothy Shanahan, a professor emeritus at the University of Illinois at Chicago – and one of the authors of the Common Core – says the standards are still in effect in 42 states.

“The federal government has made it an expensive gamble for states to adopt education standards that differ from the Common Core,” wrote Nicholas Tampio, associate professor of political science at Fordham University, noting that “DeVos has approved virtually all [state] plans that include the Common Core or a slightly modified version.”

He continued that ESSA provides little incentive for states to get rid of Common Core:

In addition, the law requires states to adopt standards that align with “relevant State career and technical education standards.” The main Common Core reading standards are called the “college and career readiness anchor standards.” For states that want to meet this criterion of the law, the safest bet is to keep the Common Core.

“[N]early every state that adopted the Common Core during the Obama administration has kept the most important features,” Tampio noted, adding that the claim of DeVos and politicians that ESSA “has repealed the Common Core mandate is misleading.”

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