Superintendent Zais comments on state’s lower standards

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South Carolina State Superintendent of Education Mick Zais issued a statement in response to recent comments about South Carolina’s standards made by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Duncan said that the state lowered the bar for proficiency in English and math faster than any state in the country.

State Superintendent Zais said, “Secretary Duncan’s honest commentary has validated what I’ve said for nearly two years now as a candidate for public office and as State Superintendent of Education: the education establishment lowered our standards.”

“Let me be crystal clear: South Carolina’s standards were lowered through an organized effort by former Democratic State Superintendents of Education Inez Tenenbaum and Jim Rex, the State Board of Education, the Education Oversight Committee, and taxpayer-funded education lobby groups. Their intent was to hide the true performance of our schools from students, parents, and taxpayers.”

“The governance of South Carolina’s system of education is too fragmented. Parents and taxpayers don’t need more unaccountable boards in Columbia; they need leaders willing to take principled stands to transform education so every student receives a personalized and customized education, not an inflexible, standardized one. That is my mandate from the voters.”

Zais continued, “Under my proposal for flexibility from certain provisions of No Child Left Behind, South Carolina would implement a new system of accountability that would grade schools from A through F, something every student and parent can understand. The proposal would set high and achievable standards for every student in every school. I look forward to submitting this proposal by February 28 and working with the U.S. Department of Education to gain approval of the State’s waiver request.”

“As State Superintendent of Education, it is my goal to raise standards as new statewide assessments are implemented in the next few years. History has shown, and President Obama’s Administration has confirmed, the education establishment in South Carolina and their lobbyists cannot be trusted.”

Zais concluded, “I call on all students, parents, and taxpayers to hold those responsible for lowering standards to account, and to stand with my allies and me as we work to transform education in South Carolina. Now is the time to put students first. That is my calling; that is my charge to keep.”

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently made the following comments on the legislative proposal in South Carolina to block implementation of the Common Core academic standards:

“The idea that the Common Core standards are nationally-imposed is a conspiracy theory in search of a conspiracy. The Common Core academic standards were both developed and adopted by the states, and they have widespread bipartisan support. GOP leaders like Jeb Bush and governors Mitch Daniels, Chris Christie, and Bill Haslam have supported the Common Core standards because they realize states must stop dummying down academic standards and lying about the performance of children and schools. In fact, South Carolina lowered the bar for proficiency in English and mathematics faster than any state in the country from 2005 to 2009, according to research by the National Center for Education Statistics,” Duncan said.

“That’s not good for children, parents, or teachers. I hope South Carolina lawmakers will heed the voices of teachers who supported South Carolina’s decision to stop lowering academic standards and set a higher bar for success. And I hope lawmakers will continue to support the state’s decision to raise standards, with the goal of making every child college- and career-ready in today’s knowledge economy.”