Zais Appointed as Deputy Secretary of Education

Photo credit: Milken Family Foundation

Former South Carolina Superintendent of Education Mick Zais was appointed by President Donald Trump as Deputy Secretary of Education.

The White House announcement reads:

Mitchell Zais of South Carolina to be Deputy Secretary of Education.  Most recently, Mr. Zais served as South Carolina’s elected State Superintendent of Education.  During his term in office, the department’s budget was reduced while on-time high school graduation rates increased every year to an all-time high.  The number of public charter schools increased 78 percent, the number of public charter school students increased 155 percent, and the number of students taking online courses grew 130 percent.  Prior to that, he served 10 years as president of Newberry College in South Carolina.  The College was recognized for the first time by U.S. News as one of “America’s Best Colleges.”  He served 31 years as an infantry soldier in the U.S. Army.  He retired as a Brigadier General.  Mr. Zais holds a B.S. in engineering from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, an M.A. degree in military history, plus M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in organizational behavior and social psychology from the University of Washington.  He served as South Carolina Commissioner of Higher Education and is a recipient of the Order of the Palmetto, the states’ highest civilian award.

Zais campaigned against Common Core when he was first elected. A year into his term he appeared to make some headway rejecting one-time federal education dollars including Race to the Top funds.

“We don’t have a shortage of dollars in South Carolina’s schools, we have a shortage of accountability, competition, and incentives,” Zais said to Ben Velderman in an interview.

“If South Carolina had accepted its slice of the Race to the Top pie, it would equal $2.22 per student per year, for four years,” Zais said. “The idea that $2.22 would make a big difference is just nonsense. That’s not even a rounding error.”

He said he wanted to fight against the “education industrial complex.”

That sounds good. Unfortunately, in 2014 the South Carolina Legislature passed a rebrand of Common Core instead of a repeal that was signed by then Governor Nikki Haley.

The rewrite process was sketchy, and Zais oversaw a rebranding of the Common Core even though he claimed that was not going to happen.

I’ve not seen one independent analysis of South Carolina’s standards showing they are significantly different than the Common Core State Standards.

He was also an advocate of education as workforce development and didn’t have a problem accepting a federal workforce development grant.

He did, however, reject the Next Generation Science Standards so I’ll give him that.

He may be better than some of President Trump’s other picks for the Department of Education, but we can’t call him an anti-Common Core warrior. His rhetoric doesn’t match his record.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley Signs Common Core Replacement Bill

nikki-haleyWhen the South Carolina Legislature passed their Common Core replacement bill it was certain that Governor Nikki Haley would sign the bill into law.

She did just that last week on May 30th.

South Carolina becomes the second state to repeal the Common Core, but this replacement will not take effect until the 2015-2016 school year so South Carolina schools are still under Common Core next school year.

The bill specifies that the South Carolina State Board of Education and the Education Oversight Committee has to sign off on any new standards developed by the South Carolina Department of Education.  However, if the standards are developed by any outside group then the standards have to be approved by the State Legislature through a joint resolution.

The law also doesn’t allow the implementation of the Smarter Balanced Assessments, and anticipating this change in the law was why Mick Zais, the Superintendent of Public Instruction, took steps to withdraw the state from Smarter Balanced.

As I reported before there is concern that South Carolina still could end up with little change and/or a Common Core rebrand since the new assessment that will replace Smarter Balanced has to be implemented for the 2014-2015 school year which will be aligned to the Common Core.  One potential solution for South Carolina would be to adopt the ACT Aspire assessment for the transition year which would then allow time to develop an assessment aligned to their own new standards.

South Carolina Legislature Passes Common Core Replacement Bill

The South Carolina Legislature passed H.3893 that would review and replace the Common Core State Standards, to Governor Nikki Haley’s desk.  On May 1st the South Carolina Senate passed the bill on a 42-0 vote.  The South Carolina House voted on Monday in favor of the bill on an 80 to 26 vote.

The bill does not immediate repeal the Common Core however.

The bill requires that South Carolina’s standards be reviewed and revised by the 2015-2016 school year.  There is concern that South Carolina still could end up with little change and/or a Common Core rebrand since the new assessment that will replace Smarter Balanced has to be implemented for the 2014-2015 school year which will be aligned to the Common Core.

South Carolina could adopt the ACT Aspire assessment for the transition year which would allow them time to develop their own assessment aligned to the new standards.

School Reform News reported on the bill’s passage:

The South Carolina House Tuesday passed a bill that would create a committee to review and replace national Common Core standards in the state before the 2015-16 school year.

Gov. Nikki Haley’s spokesperson said the governor intends to sign the bill. State Sen. Wes Hayes (R-Rock Hill), chairman of the Senate Education Committee also said Haley is likely to sign the bill and may do so as soon as Friday.

Common Core sets forth what K-12 math and English curriculum and tests must cover, and was heavily promoted by the Obama administrations. Critics say its offers mediocre academics, while proponents say it’s better than what most states had previously.

The bill sparked a debate earlier this spring when the State Department of Education decided to withdraw from national Common Core tests in anticipation of legislative action. The State Board of Education voted down that proposal, but the current state superintendent, Mick Zais, reinstated the department’s decision to drop the tests.

The bill, once signed into law, should clear any confusion caused by the conflicting orders. The bill prohibits South Carolina from using the federally funded national tests.

“A special assessment panel will be convened immediately upon passage of the bill to provide input for a new assessments system, and must seek public input,” Hayes said.

Governors Race to the Drop (of Common Core)

I have to admit.  I didn’t coin that title; credit goes to Heather Crossin who coined it in an email.  We have had a couple of Governors make some statements about the Common Core as state legislatures go into session.

mike-penceRepublican Governor Mike Pence of Indiana in his state of the state address last week said: “Hoosiers have high expectations when it comes to Indiana schools. That’s why Indiana decided to take a time-out on national education standards,” Pence said.  “When it comes to setting standards for schools, I can assure you, Indiana’s will be uncommonly high. They will be written by Hoosiers, for Hoosiers and will be among the best in the nation.”

After the address Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz said “We always adopt our own standards. It just so happens that in 2010 the State Board of Education adopted the Common Core as its standards. We are reviewing those standards. I’m pretty confident there are going to be changes to those standards. And Indiana will be adopting a new set of standards.”

Heather Crossin (who again gets credit for the title) cautioned Hoosiers:

However, we must also add the cautionary words of “not so fast.”  Hoosiers want real change when it comes to the content of future standards – minor revisions and a simple name change won’t cut it.  On this point, we turn your attention to Breitbart’s coverage of Pence’s remarks, in which Common Core supporters Derek Redelman, of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, and State Board of Education member Tony Walker (D), both predict that the changes made will be minimal and a mere tweaking of the Common Core.  Of most concern is Walker’s statement that he thinks “all of the anchor standards have to be Common Core.”  Obviously, this will NOT be acceptable.

nikki_haleyNow shift to South Carolina.  Republican Governor Nikki Haley says we’re going to ditch the Common Core.

In a speech to the Greenville County Republican Women’s Club on Jan. 16, according to the Anderson Independent Mail, Haley, a Republican who’s up for re-election this year, said, "We are telling the legislature: Roll back common core. Let’s take it back to South Carolina standards." She added that if Senate Bill 300 (introduced last year for the state’s 2013-14 legislative session) reaches her desk, she "absolutely will sign it." In that bill, there’s no pause, no mandated review period—just a straightforward move to remove the standards from the state.

There have been different bills looked at by the South Carolina State Legislature, but none have made it out of the Senate education committee.  Haley is in a reelection year and she understands where her base is.  She has however been consistent in her opposition to the Common Core State Standards.  We just haven’t seen it amount to anything yet.

Back to the Midwest now Republican Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker faces the loss of his base if he doesn’t take a strong stand against the Common Core State Standards.

scott-walker-wisconsin-governorFrom the Wisconsin Daily Independent:

While Scott Walker has gained ground around the country for a possible presidential bid, there are increasingly loud rumblings from his Wisconsin base.  The source of the friction is the controversial Common Core State Standards.

The governor’s office has been inundated with calls from across Wisconsin for the past several days.  Callers are insisting that Walker make a plain statement in his upcoming State of the State address this week, rejecting the Common Core and laying out a clear plan for immediate cessation and reversal of the standards.  One reason for the mounting pressure on the governor is the scheduled deployment of Common Core-related Smarter Balanced assessments later this year, a process that has resulted in major blowback in states such as New York and Kentucky.

Walker has remained largely silent regarding the ongoing implementation of Common Core in his state.  The few vague statements he has made so far have been viewed as at least a passive embrace of the standards.  There is additional reason to suspect that the governor is pro-Common Core.  For example, the governor notably failed to provide support to a fellow Republican who last year attempted to unseat Tony Evers, the current Democratic secretary of Wisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction.  Evers had gained notoriety for making Wisconsin the first state in the nation to adopt Common Core and has essentially seen no pushback from Walker on the initiative.

With Governor Walker’s star currently rising on the national horizon, it’s not just his Wisconsin base paying attention to his position on Common Core.  Less than 48 hours from his State of the State, eyes across the nation are watching Walker to see whether or not he will join the vanguard of governors now repudiating Common Core in their states.

I’ll be watching from Iowa.

Which state will drop the Common Core first?

States Fighting Back

J.R. Wilson has updated our map.

The Pending Rejection states are so marked as a result of serious discussion or action taken towards withdrawing from the Common Core State Standards, withdrawing from PARCC or SBAC, delaying implementation of standards or assessments, or not funding the implementation.  The discussions or actions considered include public forums, legislative bills, and hearings on state legislative floors in 2012 or 2013.











South Carolina

South Dakota


**Minnesota appears on the map as having rejected the CCSS. MN did not adopt the CCSS for Mathematics.

Check here for links to groups actively working to stop the Common Core State Standards implementation and related issues.

Indiana Education Chief Admits Obama Hijacked Common Core

Tony Bennett, the Indiana Superintendent of Public Education, was cornered at a Tea Party gathering in Indiana last week.  Russ Pulliam, blogging at the Indianapolis Star gives an account of the exchange:

Bennett is usually locked in debates with advocates for traditional approaches to public education. But this argument was different. Bennett played defense on behalf of a set of academic standards called the Common Core, which many tea party advocates see as yet another example of the federal government’s overreach.

The temperature in the room rose as Bennett took one question after another from the audience at the White River Yacht Club. He contended that the Common Core is a state-driven initiative, but one that was hijacked by the power-hungry Obama administration.

“I’m a strong conservative and I believe in states’ rights,” he told the gathering of about 100 tea party members.

Bennett pointed out that the Common Core’s standards originated with the National Governors Association, and were intended for voluntary adoption by states. Then, according to Bennett, Obama nationalized the standards and has tried to use federal clout to force the Common Core on the states.

“This administration has an insatiable appetite for federal overreach,” he said. “The federal government’s involvement in these standards is wrong.”

So shouldn’t this be a reason to pull out of the Common Core?  Buck the trend, preserve federalism, show other states that Indiana can produce standards of their own without Arne Duncan breathing down their neck?

I’m reminded of a letter I was shown sent by South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley to State Senator Mike Fair.  Senator Fair has worked diligently trying to rid South Carolina of the Common Core State Standards.  In it Governor Haley wrote:

South Carolina’s educational system has at times faced challenges of equity, quality, and leadership – challenges that cannot be solved by increasing our dependence on federal dollars and the mandates that come with them.  Just as we should not relinquish control of education to the Federal government, neither should we cede it to the consensus of other states.  Confirming my commitment to finding South Carolina solutions to South Carolina challenges, I am pleased to support your efforts to reverse the 2010 decision to adopt the common core standards.

Dr. Bennett, are you saying there isn’t enough knowledge, talent and experience within the state of Indiana to develop standards for the Hoosier state that makes sense for Indiana’s kids?  Governor Haley understands that even ceding control to the consensus of other states is not practicing fidelity to federalism.  It’s time for you to understand that as well.

Pull Indiana out of the Common Core State Standards or at the very least let elected officials who are accountable to the citizens of Indiana decide whether or not it is the right course to pursue.

Updated: S.C. Governor Nikki Haley Backs Bill to Block Implementation of Common Core State Standards

The AP reported that South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley favors the bill introduced by S.C. State Senator Mike Fair (R-Greenville) that would block the Common Core State Standards from being implemented in South Carolina.  They are currently slated to go into affect in 2014.

The AP quotes Governor Haley in a letter to State Senator Fair, “Just as we should not relinquish control of education to the federal government, neither should we cede it to the consensus of other states.”

As you likely know one of the arguments that I have heard from my own state’s Education Department director is that the Feds didn’t develop the standards, but rather they were developed in collaboration with Bill Gates & company and the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.

According to Haley, and I agree, it doesn’t matter.  It’s getting imposed on the outside (the Feds did get involved with the Race to the Trough money).

Then there is the impact on parents (and teachers as well).  Jane Robbins of American Principles Project pointed that out in AP’s article, “If teachers don’t like it or parents don’t like it, there’s no one to call.”

I can guarantee that messages left with the Department of Education will go unanswered.

HT: Caffeinated Carolina

Update: Here’s a copy of the letter that Governor Haley sent to State Senator Fair:

Haley Letter to S.C. State Senator Mike Fair

Haley Stands Firm on Education

imageSouth Carolina Governor Nikki Haley wasn’t excited about President Barack Obama’s telling the states to raise the compulsory age.  Last week she took the time to respond saying education starts at home.

There is not a state in the country that doesn’t want to see kids go to the age of 18 and finish school.  The problem is that is not happening.  We can’t have government go pick them up and bring them to school.  What we can do, and what we want to do in South Carolina is give them options.  Understand that it is not about kids graduating it’s about completing a child – whether it’s completing school, whether it’s GED, whether it’s vocational, whether it’s training.  Make sure we have options so that those who don’t fit into that one pathway have other options.  It’s easy to say we want all kids to stay in school, it’s harder to actually do it.

I think we’ve tried this for years; to say it is very easy but to actually do it we’ve got to put more into it.  Options at the end of the day is the only thing that is going to work.  Unless he thinks getting government to go drive and pick them up or doing something with their parents to get them to go to school this has to start at home.  It has to start at home, they enforce education in schools or we have to have options if they don’t feel like they are in the pathway for school.  They have to have other options like vocational or technical (training).

In another interview she said:

There’s no state in the country that doesn’t want to see their kids graduate the reality is what we need from Washington is flexibility…  What we want to be able to do in our states is work on vocational programs, work on GED programs, work on technical school programs all of those things are what we want to do and we need the flexibility to be able to do that.

She then said that the Feds should let South Carolinians handle issues like these because they know what their students need better than anyone in Washington.